Technical problems delay arrival of first of new Sullom Voe tugs

Teething troubles with one of Sullom Voe’s new tugs could hinder her arrival in the isles, the SIC’s harbour board has been warned.

It had been hoped the Spanish-built Solan would be due for delivery by the end of this month following post-production trials in Valencia. However those trials have uncovered problems with her directional stability.

A solution could be found in setting the pitch of the propellers at an alternative, pre-set angle, but that could have implications for the vessel’s speed capabilities.

Another of the vessels on order, the Bonxie, has experienced similar problems.

Head of ports and harbours Roger Moore said the delay could mean the first tug would only arrive in Shetland in mid November when he met board members on Wednesday. But he warned that was an “optimistic” estimate, which could change.

The meeting heard approximately 60 per cent of the £7 million, 40-metre vessel had already been paid for.

Iris Hawkins reduced the acquisition to a metaphor most of us find easier to relate to.

She said anyone buying a car or a washing machine would not accept the goods if they were faulty, so why should the SIC accept the tugs?

“At some point I would say take this away, I want a replacement and I want one that’s working,” she said.

Captain Moore said discussions had been ongoing between engine manufacturers and hull designers to figure out who was responsible.

He said the council could be in line for a refund, but insisted he had confidence in the type of tug on order.

“There is a section in our contract of specifications that says if the tugs don’t meet our requirements, then we could get a large proportion of our money back and look for alternative vessels, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

“While these issues are important the tugs are of good quality. This is not of the council’s doing. This is not a bespoke tug – it’s a standard design of tug in which we’ve had a lot of faith over the years.”

Some board members were worried the delay was costly, with board member Jim Tait warning “time costs money”.

However Captain Moore said there were penalty clauses included in the contract. He said the tugs, costing £13.3 million in total, were being paid for on a fixed price contract. “We are not over budget on this project,” he said.

Rick Nickerson called for a specific detailed report to be brought to future meetings, which would throw up any “major hiccoughs” in future.

Chairman Alastair Cooper said he was thankful the council was not to blame for the mess.

He said it was up to the tug suppliers to deliver and come up with something of “mercantile quality”.


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