SNP - Tom Wills

Troubled tugs return for trials

Bonxie undergoing sea and crew familiarisation trials in Sullom Voe harbour with the tanker Stena Natalita. Photo John Bateson

SHETLAND’S two troubled tugs have finally come back to the isles to undergo sea trials in Sullom Voe harbour.

The Bonxie and Solan, which cost the council £7 million three years ago, were undergoing sea trials with a tanker in the harbour on Friday.

Last summer the tugs had new fins fitted to their hulls to give them greater stability after they were pulled out of service when the Solan collided with the 76,000 tonne tanker Loch Rannoch in December 2011.

Crews refused to board the tugs after the incident, saying that it could have cost lives.

Since then work has had to be carried out modifying the complex operating consoles, delaying their reintroduction into the port until last week.

The SIC has other concerns about the Spanish-built vessels, including the high fuel cost of running tugs with such big engines.

The council is now looking at selling the tugs and changing the port back to a four tug operation, using smaller vessels.

SIC harbour board chairwoman Andrea Manson said: “We are keen to get these tugs up and running again, so the crew are familiarising themselves with what are now completely different tugs.

“We have not decided to sell them yet, but we have decided to go back to the oil industry to discuss whether they are willing to let us have a four tug operation.”

She said that the council hopes that the safety concerns raised by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico will make the industry more open to such an idea on safety grounds.

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