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Emergency services / Lifeboat out for 18 hours to tow Danish fishing boat to safety

The Westbank tow at the north entrance of Lerwick harbour this morning. Photo: Jim Mullay

LERWICK lifeboat has returned to port with the Danish fishing boat Westbank in tow.

The lifeboat was tasked yesterday (Thursday) lunchtime to assist the 17-metre Westbank which had broken down 60 miles east of Shetland and had started taking in water in stormy conditions.

Heading into the south-easterly gale which brought chaos across Scotland, it took the lifeboat several hours to reach the Westbank.

An oil support vessel provided assistance to the Westbank while the lifeboat made her way out into the stormy North Sea.

Lifeboat coxswain Steven Manson described the six-hour journey to reach the Danish vessel as “very, very rough”.

He said because of the duration of the call out the crew took turns being on watch to allow everyone to get a break in what proved to be very difficult conditions.

Manson said the lifeboat reached the Westbank just before 7pm, and after some preparatory work the fishing boat with three crew on board was eventually taken under tow by about 8pm.

Lerwick lifeboat leaving port on Thursday. Photo: Lerwick RNLI

“With the weather and all, it took a little bit longer than usual to get our tow line set up. We got attached to her at the third attempt, and we then started making our way back to Lerwick,” he said.

The tow made progress towards Shetland at a speed of between three to four knots per hour during the night.

Manson said: “The crew of the Westbank got a pump from a helicopter and were managing to keep the water flow down. Their pumps were coping not too bad.”

Both vessels arrived at the north entrance to Lerwick harbour at around 7am, when the harbour tug Knab took over the tow.

A spokesperson for the RNLI added: “This was an incredibly difficult call out for Lerwick RNLI given the treacherous and stormy conditions of the North Sea as Scotland faces Storm Babet.

“The crew preformed outstandingly and after an 18-hour shout, returned back to the station early this morning. We cannot thank them enough for their service and dedication to the RNLI and helping to save lives at sea.”

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