NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Workers saved from storm-struck North Sea oil unit

Gryphon Alpha
Image caption Gryphon Alpha was 175 miles north east of Aberdeen with 114 people on board

More than 70 people have been rescued from a North Sea oil installation after it partly broke loose from its anchorage in rough seas.

The floating production, storage and offloading unit Gryphon Alpha, operated by Maersk about 175 miles north east of Aberdeen, had 114 people on board.

The unit was shut down after four of its 10 anchor chains failed. Two workers were slightly injured.

Forty essential workers will remain on board the vessel.

The Gryphon's thrusters are still in operation and the remaining team are trying to maintain their position.

The installation was buffeted by winds of 53 knots and hit by waves of 9m (29.5ft), and the platform recorded a 12 degree roll on Friday morning.

Aberdeen Coastguard coordinated the removal of 74 workers from the Gryphon A installation to other nearby platforms, assisted by a helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth.

A coastguard spokesman said three tugs had been sent to the area to help stabilise the vessel. A fourth tug is on standby.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency's counter-pollution team has also been alerted to the developments, but no gas was detected following the shut-down on Gryphon Alpha.

A Maersk spokesman said: "As weather conditions are improving a precautionary down-manning of non-essential personnel by helicopter has commenced to nearby installations.

"The Maersk Oil onshore emergency response team is coordinating support services and all relevant organisations have been notified."

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead praised the efforts of the rescue team.

"It highlights the value of our coastguard service and all those agencies who pull together to help people in need, often in very challenging conditions," he said.

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