Highlands & Islands

Transocean rig moved to temporary location for checks

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Media captionRig Transocean Winner approaches temporary anchorage off Lewis

A 17,000-tonne oil rig that ran aground in the Outer Hebrides and was successfully refloated has arrived at a temporary location.

The Transocean Winner drilling rig ran aground on Lewis two weeks ago.

It has now arrived at Broad Bay after being refloated and towed from the other side of the island.

Salvage experts said the operation had gone smoothly despite concern about further spillages of fuel from the damaged rig.

A 1,000m temporary exclusion zone has been put in place around the anchorage in Broad Bay.

Two tug boats pulled the rig on a 54-mile journey to Broad Bay where experts will assess the damage.

Image copyright Craig Allan
Image caption There have been reports of a "slight sheen" on the water as the rig was towed to Broad Bay

The journey has taken longer than initially estimated with a travelling speed of 1-1.5 knots (1.15-1.72mph).

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been conducting counter pollution flyover checks in the area to examine the water for any sign of discharge, sheen or pollution from the rig.

There was no pollution reported in the Dalmore Bay area, but a slight sheen was detected as the aircraft continued to follow the path of the rig.

The sheen is said to be associated with the ongoing pressurisation of tanks to maintain the rig's stability, but a Brigg's Marine and Environmental Services team accompanied the tow and assisted by "breaking up the light sheen".

'Significant storm'

On a visit to Lewis, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the rig should not have ended up grounded on the island in the first place.

The semi-submersible structure was blown ashore at Dalmore, near Carloway, during a towing operation on Monday 8 August. The towline between the rig and its tug was lost en route from Norway to Malta amid high winds and heavy seas in the early hours that day.

Mr Swinney told BBC Alba: "This particular incident raises very specific questions about the wisdom of transporting the oil rig in those particular conditions.

"It was obvious from the Met Office warnings that there was going to be a significant storm to contend with."

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is investigating the cause of the grounding.

'Exclusion zone'

A temporary exclusion zone remains in place at Dalmore Bay, where the rig initially ran aground, until the seabed has been checked for any debris or environmental impact.

Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State's representative for maritime salvage and intervention, said: "We are taking advantage of the favourable weather conditions following this big step forward, and we will continue to closely monitor the rig whilst it is under tow.

"Once everything is declared safe, I will be looking at releasing the exclusion zone in Dalmore Bay.

"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the Western Isles Council and community for their patience and their gracious hospitality during this challenging and disruptive period.

Image copyright Craig Allan
Image caption Transocean Winner arrived at Broad Bay early on Wednesday
Image caption Broad Bay will provide a safe anchorage where the rig can be inspected by experts

"This salvage operation has required the united cooperation from so many different organisations who have spared no effort to ensure that this rig reaches safer waters."

Eight anchors have been laid out in Broad Bay to hold the rig in place.

Transocean will now begin the assessment process - which includes putting divers in the water - to look at the damage the rig has suffered; a process which could take until the middle of September.

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