Oil rig crash re­port re­veals safety er­rors

The Oban Times - - NEWS -

A TUG tow­ing an oil rig which ran aground off Lewis last year was sail­ing too close to the shore, used a line in ‘poor con­di­tion’, and had ‘no con­tin­gency plan’ for stormy weather, a damn­ing re­port has found, writes Sandy Neil.

The Marine Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch (MAIB) last Wed­nes­day con­cluded its in­quiry into the £20m Transocean Win­ner disas­ter, lead­ing to calls for pros­e­cu­tions from en­vi­ron­men­tal char­ity Friends of the Earth Scot­land.

Both Na h-Eileanan an Iar’s MP An­gus MacNeil and MSP Dr Alas­dair Al­lan urged the re­turn of an Emer­gency Tow­ing Ves­sel (ETV) to the West Coast.

The de­com­mis­sioned rig was be­ing towed past the He­brides from Nor­way to Malta by the Dutch reg­is­tered tug ALP For­ward last Au­gust, when the tow line was lost in rough weather. The semi-sub­mersible 17,580 tonne rig grounded on Dal­more beach near Car­loway on Lewis’ north west coast at 6.52am on Au­gust 8. It was re­moved for scrap­page ear­lier this year.

It sparked pol­lu­tion fears due to the 280 tonnes of diesel on board, and two of its four fuel tanks were dam­aged, leak­ing 53,000 litres of fuel.

The MAIB’s in­quiry found: ‘The ef­fect of the wind and waves on Transocean Win­ner led to the loss of ALP For­ward’s abil­ity to con­trol the di­rec­tion and speed of the tug and tow. Af­ter be­ing dragged back­wards by the tow for over 24 hours, the tow line, weak­ened by the re­peated sud­den load­ings, parted and the tug was un­able to pick up the emer­gency tow­line.’

Dr Al­lan said he was ‘trou­bled’ by the re­port: ‘Al­though no lives were lost and there was no sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal da­m­age, the in­ci­dent served to point to the huge dan­ger the is­land econ­omy and en­vi­ron­ment would face, if a ves­sel car­ry­ing a large amount of haz­ardous cargo found her­self in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion.

‘The re­port says that the de­ci­sion by the mas­ter of the tug to leave Sta­vanger, given the weather fore­cast, was ‘‘bor­der­line’’ and that voy­age plan­ning “did not con­sider the ef­fect of high winds”. The re­port raises a num­ber of wor­ry­ing points, such as the lack of es­sen­tial in­for­ma­tion, in­struc­tion or guid­ance in the tow­ing ves­sel’s tow­ing man­ual. This would have left the crew with in­suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion to carry out their du­ties, and the fact that the re­port says that ‘‘such ar­range­ments may not be un­usual in ocean towage’’ is deeply wor­ry­ing.

‘It also raises ques­tions about why the near­est ETV was 12 hours away in Orkney. It is clear the West Coast re­mains at risk of fu­ture in­ci­dents oc­cur­ring. In­stead of see­ing this in­ci­dent as a wakeup call, the UK Govern­ment has so far been deaf to the col­lec­tive calls for a sec­ond ETV based in the Western Isles.’

The rig’s owner Transocean paid the Maritime and Coast­guard Agency £400,000 of its bill for the op­er­a­tion on top of the £17m spent so far re­cov­er­ing it, with the fi­nal bill ex­pected to reach £20m.

ALP Maritime Ser­vices BV said: ‘We have re­ceived the re­port and are cur­rently re­view­ing the find­ings and rea­son­ing be­hind it. This will take some time and we will be able to com­ment once the re­view has been com­pleted.’

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