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Harbour tugs Solan and Bonxie on the market

Solan and Bonxie tied up at Sella Ness - Photo: ShetNews

SHETLAND Islands Council has put its recently built Sullom Voe harbour tugs Solan and Bonxie up for sale.

The two 41 metre tugs, which cost £7 million each three years ago, have appeared on a Ukrainian shipbroker’s website.

The council took the decision to sell the two powerful tugs during a council meeting, held in private, last month.

Harbour board chairwoman Andrea Manson said on Wednesday that the decision to sell had nothing to do with the troubled history of the tugs.

Following discussions with the oil industry and in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster the SIC agreed to reverse a previous council decision and go back to a four tug operation using smaller vessels.

Manson said the Bonxie and Solan were too big for what was needed to safely guide tankers in and out of Sullom Voe and therefore the council had decided “to test the market”.

“They are too big and too powerful for the job. They were the right size if we were going to use three tugs, but the council now feels that four tugs is the way ahead.

“Because of the teething problems we have had with these tugs, we never got down to a three tug operation,” Manson said.

She admitted that the next possible step would be ordering at least one new smaller tug to make up the numbers, but this would depend on the response the council receives for the current tugs on sale.

“That may be the next step, but we will have to wait and see,” Manson said.

Should the SIC be successful in selling Solan and Bonxie the port would only have four operational tugs left with no back-up.

Built at the Spanish Union Navel shipyard and delivered in 2011, the two tugs steered straight into the headlines when they were taken out of service after the Solan collided with the shuttle tanker Loch Rannoch just before Christmas the same year.

The tugs were only reintroduced to service in May this year after new fins were fitted to the hulls of the vessels to give them greater stability.

Manson said: “The council has decided that these tugs, good though they may be, are too powerful and too expensive to run in the harbour operation that we’ve got, and we have now decided to test the market to see if we can get our money back.”

Advertised as Twin Voith Schneider tugs, the two vessels are equipped with two MAN 8900 hp engines and have a bollard pull of 88 tonnes.