Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Gales leave workers trapped offshore

Photo Richard Child

HUNDREDS of oil workers are being trapped on North Sea platforms due to the strong gales that have been blowing for the past three weeks.

Bristow Helicopters who ferry workers on and off oil and gas rigs throughout the East Shetland Basin say this has been the worst spell of extended bad weather they have encountered in recent years.

Base manager at Shetland’s Scatsta airport Colin Jones, which handles fixed wing and helicopter flights exclusively for the offshore industry, said they had a “significant backlog” due to the weather.

“There is a lot of frustration and we are doing our very best. We take every opportunity to operate when it is safe to do so but unfortunately we have no control over the weather,” he said.

“It is unprecedented in recent years to have such consistent winds from the south east in the basin.”

Last summer when fog disrupted offshore flights, oil companies used oilfield supply boats to ferry workers to and from the platforms.

However with seas as high as 12 metres over the past three weeks, even boats are out of action.

Friday night and Saturday morning see the winds peaking with gust of Force 10 or 11 in Shetland being forecast.

Bristow say they will take any opportunity to operate and will be waiting for weather windows over the weekend.

Environment agency SEPA has issued a flood warning for the whole of Shetland, especially for areas exposed to the sea from the south east at peak tides at 11.30pm on Friday and 11.45am on Saturday.

Ferry operators Serco NorthLink have cancelled both north and southbound sailings of their ferries between Lerwick and Aberdeen on Friday night.

The company hopes the ferry Hjaltland will be able to sail south from Lerwick on Saturday and go on to dry dock for two weeks, during which only the Hrossey will serve the isles.

Both of the company’s freight boats Hildasay and Helliar have cancelled their Friday night sailings.

Sumburgh airport operated more or less on schedule throughout Friday, however the evening flights to and from Aberdeen have been cancelled.

Inter island operators Direct Flight cancelled flights to and from Fair Isle and Foula on Friday, but hope the weather eases enough on Saturday lunchtime to make it to Foula if there is demand.

Shetland’s inter island ferry service operated largely as normal throughout Friday, but was preparing itself for disruption on Friday night as the winds started to build up.

The Whalsay, Yell and Bluemull Sound services were suspended just before 7pm.