Highlands & Islands

High winds likely to hit Transocean oil rig salvage

Transocean Winner at Dalmore beach Image copyright PA
Image caption The rig ran aground on Monday morning

High winds are likely to start hampering the operation to refloat an oil rig that ran aground off the coast of Lewis, a salvage expert has warned.

The rig broke free from towing lines during a storm on Monday while being transported to Malta.

Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State's Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, said the operation to salvage it would not be "speedy".

An inspection team was to be put on board the Transocean rig on Wednesday.

The structure is carrying 280 tonnes of diesel oil.

Mr Shaw told BBC Radio Scotland: "The situation isn't going to get any better weather-wise as we move forward, so every time we see a storm coming through there is a potential for the rig to move further and for more damage to be caused.

"The weather is likely to start hampering operations from tomorrow. We know the winds are going to increase and that will certainly restrict the ability to winch people down onto the installation."

Image copyright PA

Mr Shaw said a period of calmer weather was needed to inspect the underside of the rig.

"This isn't going to be a quick operation. Even if we have a good day on board today there will still be a need to go back several times after the weather starts to abate and that may well be over the weekend or after the weekend," he said.

"We're not going to risk anyone or any craft going in below the rig until we know it's safe to do so."

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Media captionDrone footage of Transocean Winner oil rig which ran aground off Lewis

The owners of the beach, which forms part of the Dalmore Estate, said they hoped that the rig could be moved "as soon as possible".

Andrew Bremner, director of Lewis Island Crofters Limited, said: "We would wish to express our gratitude to the local emergency services for securing the site and ensuring public safety, as well as monitoring the rig itself.

"As the landlords of Dalmore Estate, we are of course concerned. However, we are keeping up to date on matters and are willing to do all we can to support the efforts to have the rig removed as soon as possible."

'Stay away'

Sightseers have been warned to stay away from the scene of the grounding, and a 300m temporary exclusion zone has been put in place around Dalmore beach.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it was necessary to keep roads clear.

Mark Rodaway, of the MCA, said: "We understand that this incident is of interest to people living in the area, but we're asking them to stay away to ensure easy access for emergency services and salvage teams.

"Also the last thing we want is for people to be injured or worse trying to get a closer look on remote cliff paths."

A team of six were put on board on Tuesday to carry out an inspection of the rig, including the fuel tanks. Officials said the aim was to carry-out as much work as possible on Wednesday while the weather was favourable.

Image copyright Mark macleod

Three vessels, including the emergency towing vessel Herakles, are at the scene of the grounding.

Union Bear, a multipurpose offshore vessel, has also arrived at Stornoway Harbour from Aberdeen to assist in the salvage operation.

There were no personnel aboard the 17,000-tonne drilling rig when it became detached from the tug in the early hours of Monday, 8 August.

The semi-submersible was being towed from Norway to Malta. It is understood it would have been taken from there to Turkey to be scrapped.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has begun an inquiry into what happened.

Image caption Multipurpose offshore vessel Union Bear has arrived at Stornoway to assist with the salvage

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