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SIC’s harbour board backs tug purchase

The tug in action on Tuesday as it helped berth the Antonis tanker at Sullom Voe. Photo: John Bateson

SHETLAND Islands Council’s harbour board has recommended that the local authority spends £7.6 million on buying the tug currently being leased for use at Sella Ness.

Chairwoman Andrea Manson used her casting vote at a special meeting of the board on Thursday to back the purchase of the Multratug 29, which was chartered in April for three years as a replacement for the outgoing Tirrick.

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Manson said the “business justification case had been made” and added she was “completely reassured” over the performance of the tug, which is said to have exceeded expectations.

Members Stephen Leask and Allison Duncan supported deferring a decision until January due to concerns over the possible future tendering of towage and the cost-effectiveness of buying the tug should this happen, but they were outvoted.

The harbour board was previously bypassed in formal discussions about buying the Multratug 29, with North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper successfully securing an emergency meeting last month when the business case was presented to the policy and resources committee.

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Staff who use the vessel were present at the harbour board meeting – which took place in Sella Ness – to give their first hand views on the tug.

The council has an option in its contract to purchase the two year old Dutch Multratug 29, which would cost £7,614,640 if bought after six months of operation on 25 October.

The performance of the tug has been monitored and the “vessel has in most cases exceeded both the specifications and expectations of sea staff”.

The option to purchase the tug was deemed to be more cost effective than to continue to charter the vessel for the next three years, which would cost £1,040,250 per annum.

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The capital costs of buying the boat would be funded by external borrowing, but Manson said harbour fees and charges will recoup funds spent.

“That’s part of the harbour charges that the oil industry will pay for the tug, whether we lease it or whether we pay it, and this actually saves the harbour money, and it saves the oil industry money,” she told BBC Radio Shetland.

“If we keep the bare boat charter, it would have been over £300,000 per year extra that they would have been paying.”

Shetland Islands Council will now make a decision on the purchase at its next full meeting on Wednesday.

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