Shetland is braced for a new invasion of oil workers as a 213-room floating hotel arrived at Lerwick.
The Bibby Stockholm, a massive accommodation barge, will house hundreds of workers employed by multinational oil field services firm Petrofac as they build the £500million gas plant at Sullom Voe for French oil giant Total.
The vessel can take up to 550 guests and Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell believes the influx of workers will be good for the islands.
“It shows how buoyant the economy is here,” he said. “It all has a knock-on effect and we hope it’s going to have a lot of benefits for the area.
“We’re delighted there is this sort of economic activity happening on our doorstep.”
Mr Bell said there were concerns from some islanders that the new residents could cause an increase in crime levels, but he was sure that police would keep a close eye on the vessel to ensure a smooth transition.
He added: “We have had these types of things before and past experience has shown that it is unlikely to be a major problem. We are looking at it positively, we would much rather people were coming here to live than leaving the islands.”
More gas plant construction workers will be housed at the 100-bed Moorfield Hotel being built from modules at Brae.
Lerwick harbour is already busy with offshore developments around Shetland as the energy industry opens up new oil and gas fields east, north and west of the islands in the biggest growth phase the region has seen for decades.
Harbourmaster Calum Grains said recent dredging work meant the harbour was able to attract the huge new offshore vessels needed for working in the more extreme environments being explored these days.
“The ships are bigger and working in harsher environments in deeper water that need larger pieces of equipment and that means they need to have the size of ship able to cope with that and the weather conditions they are getting,” he said.
“We are able to attract these big support ships because of our deep-water quayside and this will be very important for the next few years.”
The next 10 months will see large gas plant modules being landed at Holmsgarth from where they have already started to be trans-shipped by barge to Sullom Voe.
Meanwhile, enormous Subsea 7 support vessels have become a regular sight at Lerwick as they become involved in installing the subsea infrastructure for the Laggan-Tormore gas field being opened up by Total.
This year the harbouris building a 75-metre extension to its 100-metre deep-water quay at Greenhead to help handle the amount of offshore business expected over the next few years.