An oil rig wrecked off the Western Isles has arrived at “blowtorch beach” – its final destination at an environmentally friendly” breaking zone in Turkey – where it will be chopped up for scrap.
The Transocean Winner is ahead of Britain’s last old-style aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, in the list of unwanted ships and obsolete rigs earmarked for demolition in the western Turkish port of Aliaga.
The Winner is still perched atop the deck of the heavy loader ship, MV Hawk, which carried it from Lewis.
Serious damage to some 30 ballast and fuel tanks when it grounded in Dalmore on the west side of Lewis, after breaking its towline from a tug in a summer storm on 8 August guaranteed the Winner would sinking without a constant stream of compressed air forcing out incoming seawater.
After being salvaged off the rocks, the structure was patched up in Broad Bay on the other side of the island before being loaded onto the Hawk, a former oil tanker converted into a heavy cargo lift vessel.
Further repairs to the 33-year-old obsolete drilling platform were undertaken during a seven day stopover in Malta.
Today preparations are being made for the Hawk to partially submerge into the water in the Aegean Sea to allow the rig to be gently towed off by small tugs.
In the coming months it will be cut up by blowtorches and dismantled piece-by-piece at one of the 22 yards in Turkey’s only designated breakers’ zone.
Nearby, Royal Navy warships are broken-up.
Britains last aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, which served in the Falkland War, faces the same fate as the Winner after she was sold to neighbouring yard for £2 million.
The UK Government previously despatched 14 naval ships for scrap in this heavily industrialized area dedicated for ship dismantling by the Turkish government.
Six destroyers including HMS Glasgow, plus aircraft carrier, the Invincible, were scrapped at the site.
Hundreds of people were involved in the Transocean Winner’s salvage operation in Lewis.
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.
Hugh Shaw, the UK government’s salvage advisor thanked the local community and salvage support and personnel for concluding the operation “smooth and safely.”
Mr Shaw praised the “incredible teamwork and support” across governments, industry and the local community.”
He thanked the local communities, including Carloway, Dalmore, Back and Point for their “patience, understanding and exceptional support and highlighted the “professionalism, commitment and support” from local engineers and businesses as well as salvage personnel.
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.”
The islands also gained an economic bonanza from rig recovery operation which saw 200 people 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.