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The Lerwick Zebra leaves town

Sans Vitesse being towed out of Lerwick harbour on Thursday evening by the council's Sullom Voe tug Tystie. Photo Platform Shetland

LERWICK harbour’s most distinctive feature for the past two and a half years has finally left the town’s waterfront.

The departure of the black and white-striped accommodation barge Sans Vitesse marks the end of one of the busiest periods in Shetland’s economic history.

Since its arrival in October 2013, the zebra-patterned vessel’s 101 cabins were used to house men building the Shetland Gas Plant for French oil giant Total.

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Chief contractor Petrofac spent £300 million more than the £800 million they were paid to construct the onshore infrastructure that will process gas from the Laggan-Tormore field west of Shetland before sending it on to the UK mainland.

That work is now drawing to a close, with the thousands of workers employed on the massive project now absent from the isles.

Their presence pushed up the price of rented accommodation in the isles and increased traffic volumes to unprecedented levels. Their departure has returned island life to its more usual pace.

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At 7pm on Thursday night the Sullom Voe tug Tystie towed Sans Vitesse out of Lerwick harbour, with help from Lerwick harbour’s pilot boats Knab and Kebister.

In the early hours of Friday morning she arrived at Sullom Voe, where she will provide extra bed space for men still working on the gas plant and the BP-operated Sullom Voe Terminal.

The 76.5 metre, 800 tonne barge is now being leased by the recently-established accommodation providers Shetland FM, who have been in the news recently over their planning application for council-owned Viewforth House in Lerwick.

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Shetland FM director Graham Henderson said it had been a major undertaking getting the Sans Vitesse ready for the move.

“We took advantage of a weather window with lighter winds and flatter seas and are pleased finally to have got the barge to Sella Ness,” he said.

Henderson praised local marine engineering firm Malakoff for doing “a sterling job” preparing the vessel to be moved.

He also thanked Shetland Islands Council and its ports and harbours department for providing support.

Sans Vitesse, which has a 60-seater restaurant, a bar/recreation area, gym and laundry Its 101 cabins, which all have internet, TV and en suite bathrooms, will now be made ready by Shetland FM to accommodate workers.

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