A Shetland-based ship will soon be on the scene of BP’s environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to help in the latest attempts to stem the flow of oil. The Lerwick-registered oil shuttle tanker Loch Rannoch left on Wednesday with at least three Shetlanders in her crew and is currently crossing the Atlantic. She called at Rotterdam first before making for the English Channel. She is due in the Bahamas next Friday before entering the Gulf.
The Loch Rannoch will be used to hold oil being recovered from the leaking well in BP’s Macondo project off Louisiana which the oil company has been unable to plug since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on 20th April and sank, killing 11 workers.
A spokesman for BP said he had no details on the ship’s exact duties and that no timescale had been set for how long the operation would take.
The Loch Rannoch usually brings in oil to Sullom Voe from the Schiehallion field west of Shetland but she has become available due to the closure of the field at the weekend for more extended maintenance. The last oil is being taken into port by the other shuttle tanker which often serves the field, Hanne Knutsen, due at Sullom Voe today.
The shutdown will mean more lost income to Shetland Islands Council which gains from handling tanker traffic through its port. The field only came back onstream in February after an eight-month shutdown for repairs which left the council having to cope with over £1 million less income than expected.
SIC head of ports and harbours Roger Moore said the council had been notified of the shutdown last year which allowed the loss of revenue to be factored in to the council’s annual budget. “It will be a quieter harbour over the summer months,” he said.
BP did not want to release details of the work to be done offshore during the summer weather window except to say it was routine annual maintenance. The field is scheduled to come back on stream in mid-August.
There has been speculation in the industry that BP is to spend about £1.3 billion building a new floating production ship to replace the Schiehallion in 2015 which has not proved up to the job in the wild Atlantic weather. Production has also been hampered by high levels of water in the oil and a minor collision between the Schiehallion and the Loch Rannoch.