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Marine / Pilot boarding breaches still being recorded at Sullom Voe

Photo: John Bateson

THERE are still instances of tankers not complying with pilot boarding arrangements whilst arriving into the port of Sullom Voe despite Shetland “flying the flag” for safety on the issue.

Members of Shetland Islands Council’s harbour board heard on Wednesday that there was an incident on 24 March in which a tanker did not have the right set-up for allowing a pilot to board the ship.

In conjunction with Sullom Voe Terminal, this vessel will not be permitted to call again until it can demonstrate compliance.

In previous years there were repeated breaches of the arrangements.

Marine pilots use their local knowledge to guide visiting ships into areas such as harbours, and they are used for oil tankers coming into Sullom Voe Terminal.

Harbourmaster Greg Maitland said the council has been leading the way on pilot boarding safety, was “very strong on policing” it and has a guidebook for mariners which includes photographs.

He said there have been accidents in other areas of the country involving pilots attempting to board ships but falling into the water due to poor ladder arrangements.

Maitland told councillors there had been word on the grapevine that ship operators in Greece were even talking about the pilot boarding rules for tankers coming into Sullom Voe – showing that many in the industry are aware of the strict requirements.

Shetland South councillor Robbie McGregor said in a previous job he had boarded many ships in similar arrangements and there were times he was “apprehensive” about doing so.

He said there were occasions he boarded where it may not have been safe, and got a “severe bollocking” for doing so.

But Maitland said pilots will not board a vessel if they feel it is unsafe to do so.

Meanwhile board chair Robert Thomson highlighted that some tankers are still entering the ‘area to be avoided’ while en route to Sullom Voe, or departing the port, and asked if more can be done to reinforce the message.

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Maitland said it was usually a case of vessels cutting corners.

The area to be avoided discourages navigation close to the Shetland coastline.

There were two instances in March of tankers entering the area to be avoided. One was said to be down to difficulty turning in poor weather, and investigations are ongoing into the second incident.

As per usual a list of recent incidents at Shetland council ports were presented to the harbour board at Wednesday’s meeting.

One included a ferry having a minor impact with a moored jack up barge in the Fair Isle harbour.

But Maitland explained it was just a “touch” and that neither vessel suffered any damage.

Around half a litre of oil was lost in the Sullom Voe harbour area from a hydraulic control box for a crane on a jetty.

A minor oil leak was also reported in the engine room of a Sullom Voe tug, while a tug needed to have rope removed from its propellor. The rope came from fendering on a jetty.

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