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The future is Neapolitan for harbour tug

The Solan is off to Italy, with its sister vessel Bonxie set to follow suit in the new year - Photo: John Bateson

SHETLAND Islands Council has found a buyer in Italy to take its troubled Sullom Voe tugs off its hands for an unspecified price.

The Solan is about to set off having been purchased by Panfido, a Venice-based towage company, and it is understood it will be used in the port of Naples.

Meanwhile the same company is also moving ahead on purchasing the Solan’s sister vessel, Bonxie, which is expected to leave Shetland in February.

The two tugs Solan and Bonxie did cost £7 million each - Photo: John Bateson

The local authority said it could not disclose the sale price of the two vessels due to “commercial sensitivities”, but its shipbrokers have said that, in their professional opinion, the agreement represents an “above-average market valuation” of the tugs. 

The two powerful 41-metre long tugs cost £7 million each four years ago, but encountered numerous difficulties when brought to Sullom Voe.

Steering problems were eventually resolved, but the Solan and Bonxie became surplus to requirements when the council reverted to a four-tug operation using smaller vessels and they were put on the market last summer.

SIC harbour board chairwoman Andrea Manson said: “I’m extremely pleased that we have reached agreement on the sale of the Solan and Bonxie.

“They were commissioned at a time when business at the port was very different, and they have posed problems for us in the past.

“I’m satisfied that we have managed to secure the best possible return for these two vessels, especially given the downturn we are currently witnessing in the oil and gas industry.”

Infrastructure services director Maggie Sandison added: “The life extension to the port of Sullom Voe means we need to review future infrastructure requirements to support the oil industry’s anticipated business going forward.

“The council is also considering the most appropriate future operational model for the port’s activities in response to this changed business environment.”