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Petrofac apologise for drunken town antics

The Total gas plant shut down on Thursday as a mark of respect for a dead worker, only for hundreds of drunk workers to cause trouble in Lerwick. Photo Malcolm Younger/Millgaet Media

CONSTRUCTION giant Petrofac has apologised to the community in Shetland after hordes of drunk workers paraded through the streets of Lerwick on Thursday upsetting local people.

A series of incidents took place on the streets of Lerwick after around 2,000 men working on the Total gas plant construction site at Sullom Voe were given the day off after the sudden death of a colleague the previous day.

That evening Lerwick police station was inundated with calls from local pubs, shops and eating establishments complaining about the men’s behaviour.

In just one incident, a young woman was flung over the shoulder of a drunk worker and left close to tears.

There were other reports of a man flashing at a passing bus full of passengers, and several of men indiscriminately urinating, throwing up and drinking alcohol in the street despite a local bye law against drinking in public in the town.

Local police chief Eddie Graham said they received many calls on Thursday and sent out extra patrols, but no arrests were made.

“We certainly had far more calls than we normally had in relation to antisocial behaviour,” he said.

“We dealt with them by warning individuals, though none were significant enough to warrant an arrest.”

He added: “We simply as a community don’t tolerate anti-social behaviour on this scale and I would encourage any member of the public to report anything to 101.”

George Maconnachie, the site manager with Petrofac who are the main contractor building the £800 million Total gas plant, apologised on local radio for the men’s behaviour.

He told BBC Radio Shetland: “I can only apologise on behalf of Petrofac. It’s not something we condone at all.”

Maconnachie said he was particularly disappointed considering the men had been granted a day off in respect for 53 year old Neil McGlaughlin, from Cheshire, who died suddenly at the company’s accommodation block on Wednesday.

He added that the company would sack anyone who they heard had broken their strict code of conduct and invited people to make contact if they had any names.

“We take our responsibilities to the Shetland community very seriously and make every effort to impress them on our staff and those of our contractors,” he said.

“This includes strict guidelines for appropriate behaviour on and off-site, including in relation to alcohol.

“We will be making it a priority to re-issue and reiterate these guidelines so that no-one can be under any illusions about what we expect of them.

“We have in the region of 2,000 people on site at the moment and I would stress that incidents like this are rare.

“However I want to make clear that we won’t tolerate this sort of behaviour.”

Lerwick publicans played down the amount of trouble inside their establishments, saying that it was no worse than a normal Saturday night in Lerwick, though at least one pub closed its doors early.

In general the Lerwick hospitality industry has said that the oil workers normally behave well, apart from the odd exception.

One 24 year old woman suffered vulgar comments while walking home from work, and was then assaulted by a young worker who flung her over his shoulder.

She told BBC Radio Shetland: “I kind of almost froze though I was trying to get away from them and I couldn’t, but as soon as I got past them I was shaking, I phoned my boyfriend and I was just about in tears.

“I think they were probably having a fun, but it wasn’t funny,” she said, adding that she would not want to see anyone lose their job as a result what happened.

Thursday’s incident comes at a bad time for the oil industry, which is currently experiencing a boom in Shetland with thousands of workers building the gas plant and carrying out refurbishment at BP’s Sullom Voe oil terminal.

This week has seen a flurry of complaints about the behaviour of drunk construction workers on NorthLink ferries between Shetland and Aberdeen, with reports of verbal abuse and sexual harassment.

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