A Shetland firm run by Sullom Voe tugmen has been hired to bring home the two new council tugs from their Spanish shipyard now that their performance failures appear cured.
Shetland Maritime has been brought in by Unión Naval Valencia (UNV) yard to deliver the twin £7 million tugs after it was unable to spare its own crews for the trip due to pressure of work.
The Solan is almost ready to leave the Mediterranean port after successful sea trials and a marine survey which followed yet more modifications to iron out technical problems. She was originally due in Shetland more than seven months ago. Her sister ship, Bonxie, is not quite as far advanced but council harbourmaster Roger Moore said this week it was still possible both would be brought over by Christ-mas, perhaps together.
The council has a tug crew out in Valencia at the moment with Captain Moore and Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspector Angus Graham. The 40-metre ships are being tested for manoeuvrability, speed and to ensure their systems and equipment all works.
The main problems have been that the tugs would not steam in a straight line and the exhausts were not functioning properly. The council said it would withhold final payments until the tugs were deemed satisfactory and achieved certification by Lloyds and the MCA. Captain Moore said they had now lived up to expectations and to the contract requirements.
According to Zander Simpson of Shetland Maritime, UNV got in touch earlier in the year when the number of drydocking jobs it had meant it would not be able to deliver the tugs. But the handover was delayed anyway. More recently the yard decided it wanted to avoid the high costs of overtime in sending its crews to Shetland with the ships, asking Shetland Maritime to deliver them instead.
Mr Simpson, who is also master of the Sullom Voe tug Dunter, has been putting together two six-strong crews with experience of the Voith propulsion units being used on the new tugs. They include tug crew members and some other local men. But he has also required to draw on his marine contacts elsewhere to source the numbers required.
Mr Simpson said on Wednesday: “I’m hopeful that I will get the 12 men but whether they have the two tugs ready I don’t know.”
A mistaken impression has been doing the rounds that the council was having to hire its own tugmen to bring home the boats that they would later be working on.
But this was dismissed by harbour board chairman Alastair Cooper who said the council required the yard to deliver the tugs to the pier at Sella Ness. “That’s our requirement and that’s what we’re looking for,” he said. “Any delivery is between the yard and their contractor.”
Under the tug contract the council will also recover the extra costs of having the team of men currently out in Spain because of the teething troubles.
The council decided to order replacement tugs in 2006 and had hoped they would be delivered in 2009. The deal was eventually signed in March 2007 but a worldwide queue for engines meant early 2010 was the target delivery date. The first one was launched in December last year and was due to arrive in April.
Shetland Maritime was set up eight years ago and is registered to Mr Simpson’s house in Lerwick. It has two other directors: John Halcrow from Burra, who works on the tugs, and Mr Simpson’s wife Margaret.
Mr Simpson said he did a range of work as a general marine consultant, including with oil shipping company Noble Denton and assisting with the Bibby Challenger accommodation barge that is currently in Morrison Dock waiting to go to Norway on a contract. The Spanish tug job would be the company’s first vessel delivery, he said.