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Transocean Winner rig finally arrives in Malta

The Transocean Winner. Picture courtesy of MCA.
The Transocean Winner. Picture courtesy of MCA.

A wrecked oil rig has finally arrived at its original destination in Malta over eleven weeks after it crashed in the Western Isles.

The heavy weight ship carrying the seriously damaged Transocean Winner anchored off the port of Marsaskala in the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday afternoon.

Though it is ultimately destined for the scrap yard in Turkey, it will remain on the deck of the semi-submersible ship, the Hawk, to undergo repairs.

Patching up the 33-year-old redundant drilling platform is necessary to prevent it from sinking once it is put into the sea.

Jagged rocks pierced into 30 of its tanks when it grounded in Dalmore, Lewis, after breaking its towline from a tug in a summer storm on 8 August.

Hundreds of people were involved in the salvage operation.

After being pulled off the shore by workhorse tugs, the heavily listing rig was towed to a sheltered anchorage in Broad Bay on the other side of the island.

Too badly holed to continue its tow south – it was only kept afloat by a constant stream of compressed air pumping into her compartments – a heavy loader ship was chartered to give it a piggyback ride.

Weather disrupted the loading operation a number of times but eventually the ship was partially sank into the sea to allow the Winner to be floated over her deck. The vessel rose upward with the rig overlapping its wide deck.

Further delays set in when maritime authorities in Turkey sought assurances over the state of the platform before issuing a permit to allow the rig to be unloaded in their country.

Eventually, after weeks of dominating the headlines, the ship unceremoniously slunk off in the darkness.

Hugh Shaw, the UK government’s salvage advisor who supervised the salvage, was delighted the operation was concluded smooth and safely.

Mr Shaw said: “On a personal note, I am delighted that so much has been achieved in a relatively short period of time, from the grounding of the rig on 8 August, to its departure from Broad Bay on 14 October.

“This would not have been possible without the incredible teamwork and support from all concerned across governments, industry and the local community.”

He thank the local communities, including Carloway, Dalmore, Back and Point for their “patience, understanding and exceptional support.
“Without such we would all have struggled to achieve as much in such a short time scale.”

He highlighted the “professionalism, commitment and support” from local engineers and businesses as well as salvage squads.

Rig owner, Transocean is donating £120,000 windfall as a thank you gift to the Hebridean community who helped during the salvage and recovery operation.

Transocean‘s operation director, Dave Walls, has already praised the community and recovery crews.

Mr Walls said: “The support received from the community has been tremendous. Local businesses have helped us incredibly well.

“All in all, I am really very pleased in the way everybody has responded and helped.”

Half the cash is earmarked to help the Dalmore and Carloway community where the rig grounded.

The other £60,000 will go into a fund to be awarded to island youngsters competing in sport.

The donation is in additional to the economic bonanza from rig recovery operation which saw hundreds of personnel arriving on the island and booking rooms in hotels and B&Bs as well as spending in shops for food, supplies, and services.

In addition, Transocean employed local labour including engineering firms, boat hire, welding crews and scaffolders as well as buying supplies, food and services.

Around 40 local firms benefited from the recovery work while air and ferry transport operators saw a rise in passengers numbers as personnel travelled to and from the island.

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