Highlands & Islands

Grounded rig Transocean Winner could be refloated at weekend

Rig on beach on Isle of Lewis
Image caption Transocean Winner ran aground last week

The drilling rig Transocean Winner could be towed off a beach on Lewis this weekend, if experts say it is safe to do so.

The structure came ashore at Dalmore, near Carloway, in bad weather during a towing operation last week.

Even if refloated on high tides this weekend, the rig would remain not far from shore while fresh assessments were made of it.

Later, it would be towed to another location nearby for repairs.

Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State's Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, who is overseeing the salvage operation, said the rig would only be moved off the beach if this did not put the environment or the rig at risk of damage.

He said refloating the rig would not been done "for the sake of meeting high tides".

Mr Shaw added that once it was eventually refloated, the rig would remain in "close proximity" while further checks were made of the structure.

Two towlines

Personnel from the rig's owner, Transocean, and salvage company Smit, have been on board the Transocean Winner since Sunday.

As well as making damage assessments, they have been securing two towlines to the rig ready for a tug to pick them up.

On Friday, an exercise is to be held on test procedures designed to deal with a potential diesel oil spill from the drilling rig grounded on Lewis.

More than 12,000 gallons (56,000 litres) of fuel were lost from two tanks on the Transocean Winner after it came ashore at Dalmore last week.

Tens of thousands of gallons remain in other tanks on the decommissioned rig. This fuel is being transferred to tanks above the waterline on the rig.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said a helicopter has been delivering equipment to the rig for use in the operation to move it.

The gear includes compressors which will be used to provide buoyancy for the refloat.

Image copyright PA

Smit Salvage has been checking for damage and carrying out stability analysis to make sure Transocean Winner has sufficient buoyancy, the MCA said.

This work comes as representatives of Transocean prepare to meet people who live close to where the structure was blown ashore.

The company's representatives are to attend a public meeting in Carloway on Thursday night.

Staff from salvage company Smit and Mr Shaw are also to attend.

Transocean Winner was being towed from Norway to Malta when the tow line between it and a tug broke while the towing operation was off the Western Isles.

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