North Sea

Waiting game as Transocean Winner salvage team looks forward to towing operation

The Transocean Winner

The salvage team on the Transocean Winner is playing a waiting game to find out whether the stricken rig can be safely towed.

The official in charge of the recovery operation on the Isle of Lewis said yesterday that work had continued at pace since salvors boarded on Sunday.

Compressors were being transferred onto the rig yesterday, while a number of towlines have been attached, Hugh Shaw said.

Rig-owner Transocean is also transferring diesel fuel to tanks above the waterline, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said yesterday, adding recent checks had not revealed any pollution in the area.

But while progress has been made, salvors are still unsure when the rig will be ready for towing, nearly two weeks after it washed up at Dalmore beach on the western side of the island.

Mr Shaw, the Secretary of State’s representative for maritime salvage and intervention, warned of the danger of losing the rig again if towing begins without a clearer picture of the damage suffered to its buoyancy tanks.

Remotely-operated vehicles have been assessing the structure underwater, but it is only once compressors have been hooked up that salvors will know whether the rig can be made buoyant, Mr Shaw said.

If the rig cannot be safely refloated and towed, Mr Shaw said the team would have to “sit down, take stock and see what the other options are”.

“We don’t want to tow the vessel, have insufficient buoyancy and lose the rig,” he said. “If the salvage teams do not think they can do it, they’ll come back to me.”

He also vowed to keep the local residents informed about the operation’s progress.

On Thursday night, he attended a public meeting in nearby Carloway along with officials from Transocean.

Don Mackay, chairman of Carloway Community Association, said people felt they had been “ignored” in the wake of the rig’s grounding.

Mr Shaw said: “As soon as I am in a position to share when (towing) is going to happen, I’ll do so.

“The community has been supportive of us in our work and we, in return, have done our utmost to make sure they know what we’re doing and how and when.”

Transocean representatives apologised to residents for any disruption caused by the rig’s grounding and pledged to remove it without leaving a trace.

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