The two new tugs for Sullom Voe arrived at their home port around noon today, six hours earlier than expected, after a 10-day trip in poor weather.
The identical Spanish-built Solan and Bonxie left their Valencia shipyard together last week after extended delays when modifications had to be made to the vessels.
Harbourmaster Roger Moore said today he was delighted to have the tugs in Shetland at last. Although many months behind schedule, the modifications have resulted in high-performance vessels which are the most powerful ever to be operated by Shetland Islands Council.
Capt Moore said: “I was a little disappointed about the delay, but the tugs are faster and pull more than expected and perform better than expected.
“I’m pleased they arrived safely and together and ahead of schedule. They got through rough weather, they are good sea-keepable ships.”
The 40-metre tugs, which have a beam of 14m and a bollard pull of at least 70 tonnes, made the passage to their new home together.
Making a speed of nine knots, they encountered “choppy” conditions of gale force nine winds in the Straits of Gibraltar. They sailed up the Irish Sea and then through the Minches, where the south-westerly winds disrupted Calmac sailings. The winds were up to gale force on the passage to Shetland but the tugs still managed to get into Sella Ness earlier than expected, coming up the east side of Shetland. They were accompanied by two of the existing Sullom Voe tugs, Tystie and Dunter, on their final approach into harbour.
The new tugs stopped only twice in the long passage, the first time in Vigo in northern Spain to drop off a shipyard worker and the second time in Falmouth to change a crew member.
They were delivered to Shetland by Shetland Maritime Ltd, an independent company, with six crew on board each boat. Some of the tug crew work for the company and some of the tug men were on the delivery.
Solan and Bonxie were built in the Union Naval shipyard in Valencia and were originally due for delivery in April. Problems with directional stability and exhaust pressures, discovered on sea trials, prevented this, and staff from ports and harbours went out the Spain to oversee the remedial work.
Capt Moore said the £14 million project remained within budget. Final payment was withheld until he was satisfied with the tugs – most of the money has now been paid with only a small amount outstanding.
Solan and Bonxie, both of which can reach a speed of 14 knots, can each accommodate up to six crew and are equipped to carry out pollution response work, as well as working with tankers.
The new tugs will replace at least one of the harbour’s smaller tugs Tirrick and Shalder. One will be sold and the fate of the other assessed later in the year.
Both new tugs have two diesel main engines, each of which has 8,150 horsepower. Each boat has the Voith propulsion units.