24th May 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Fierce gales and heavy seas play havoc with power and transport

, by , in News

By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS

Severe gales lashed the isles this week, throwing transport into disarray and disrupting power supplies.

All inter-island ferry services, apart from a single ferry on Yell Sound, were cancelled for most of yesterday, although the Bressay service started again at 2pm and Whalsay was set to operate again around mid-afternoon.

Seventy houses in Unst lost power – as there were no ferries engineers had been unable to get there to restore electricity supplies.

A spokesman for Scottish and Southern Energy said the wind-related fault had been isolated and it would be a “relatively quick” repair job. As we went to press the line team was in Yell waiting to get across to Unst.

A fisherman had to be brought ashore in Lerwick yesterday morning after being badly injured in an accident on the Banff-registered Concorde. The incident happened during the storm in the early hours of the morning.

The Concorde was fishing 55 miles south-east of Bressay around 1am when a large lump of water hit the boat, knocking the man off his feet. He fell against a flange, splitting his head open.

According to Shetland Coast­guard, a helicopter could not have been sent as it would not have been possible to winch the injured man in the south-easterly force 10 wind, but the boat crew were given a link call to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for medical advice.

The 22-metre Concorde pro­ceeded to Lerwick under her own power and arrived at Shearer’s quay around 8.15am, where a waiting ambulance took the injured man to the Gilbert Bain Hospital. His condition was not serious – a hospital spokeswoman said he was given “minor treatment” and he has since been discharged.

Although flights in and out of Sumburgh were operating as usual yesterday, there were no fixed wing flights coming to Scatsta and all helicopter flights to the east Shetland basin were cancelled.

An airport spokeswoman said that the winds, which had been in excess of 70 knots, were above the limits permitted for offshore flying. A backlog operation is expected to start today.

Passengers attempting to travel by NorthLink experienced some of the worst problems with sailings disrupted all week.

The trouble started when the ferry Hjaltland was damaged in heavy seas on Monday night, shortly into her journey to Aberdeen.

Hjaltland sailed from Lerwick at 7pm in a southwesterly gale. Forty minutes into the southbound trip, while still off the east coast of Shetland south of Mousa, she was struck by an abnormally large wave. A heavy fo’c’sle door leading to the accommodation area was severely dented by the weight of water and the bridge window wipers were damaged.

She completed the crossing but had to be repaired in Aberdeen, work which took until Wednesday.

This meant that Tuesday night’s sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick was cancelled, and as a result of the vessels being out of position the Wednesday night sailing from Lerwick to Kirkwall and Aberdeen was also cancelled.

NorthLink made efforts to inform the 67 passengers who were scheduled to sail on Tuesday’s service out of Aberdeen to Lerwick, as well as passengers due to embark from Lerwick on Wednesday plus the 69 joining at Kirkwall. Some people managed to travel on the freight boat Hascosay, which can accommodate 12 passengers.

NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said of the events of Monday night: “The incident occurred at about 7.40pm. Hjaltland was sailing easily at 13 knots in a five to six-metre swell with the wind blowing 55 knots out of the southwest when the watchkeeper described the ship being hit by a single very large wave. The vessel continued at reduced speed until clear of bad weather and arrived in Aberdeen some two and a half hours late. No-one was injured as a result of the incident. Indeed, most passengers were unaware that anything untoward had happened.

“The cancellations are due to the necessity to carry out repairs but we were able to offer passengers on-board accommodation in Aberdeen on Tuesday night. Nevertheless, I would take this opportunity to say that we do regret the inconvenience caused. Passengers affected were contacted by our staff.”

However NorthLink’s troubles did not end there. A bad weather forecast on Wednesday delayed the sailing of the repaired Hjaltland until 4am, due to arrive in Shetland at around 5.30pm. The latest infor­mation as we went to press was that she was due to sail again at 7pm last night as the 70mph southeasterly winds were forecast to moderate.

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

View other stories by »