Billionaire opens hotel-style workers’ camp at Sella Ness

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The accommodation for workers who will build Total’s gas terminal is more like a hotel than a camp – a far cry from the wooden huts inhabited by the men who made Sullom Voe in the 1970s.

The high-quality Sella Ness accommodation complex for 800 workers was officially opened this morning by Britain’s 26th richest man – the billionaire Ayman Asfari, head of oil services company Petrofac which is contracted to provide the gas plant.

The job of cutting the ceremonial ribbon actually fell to the chairman of Total Holdings, Patrice de Viviès, who Mr Asfari called forward from the crowd of invited guests to do the honour.

Petrofac had bussed in scores of representatives of local organisations and the oil industry for a light breakfast and Champagne reception and a guided tour of the two-storey complex, which is not quite finished. Petrofac has not disclosed the building’s cost.

As well as a spacious foyer and hotel-style reception desk, the lower floor of the timber-clad amenity building contains the canteen for meal times.

Upstairs the workers can make use of the large Tammie Norie bar with its pool tables. Next door is a fitness room crammed with dozens of expensive running and weight-lifting machines.

Down a corridor at the back are the bedrooms, made from prefabricated and multi-coloured modules. The two-bunk versions have a roomy shower and en-suite toilet, flat-screen TV and individual blackout curtains to give each worker some privacy. Outside there is a small artificial-turf multi-court with goals which may turn out to be rather too wide for the size of the pitch!

It is not often that a businessman of Mr Asfari’s stature visits Shetland. Originally from Syria, he built up Petrofac from small beginnings after buying it in 2001. He is said by rich people’s list Forbes to be worth £1.7 billion, six places above author JK Rowling in the UK list. He has a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean and a private jet.

He had arrived in Shetland on Thursday and took in some of the Tall Ships celebrations in Lerwick, which he said was “a fantastic event”. He told guests at the reception that he had been through Shetland many times, at Sumburgh and Scatsta airports, but this was the first time he had spent any time in the islands.

The Total gas plant is Petrofac’s first major development onshore in the UK, although the company has now been operating for 30 years. It has been around Shetland for years in support of its offshore operations and Mr Asfari said it was good to now have a presence in the islands.

After thanking Total and Dong, the partners in the Lagan-Tormore gas field west of Shetland, Mr Asfari singled out young Shetland woman Morgan Sales for a mention. She has recently joined the company and had been telling him about the measures being taken in the gas plant project to protect the environment.

Workers are due to move into the new accommodation block next month, according to Petrofac’s engineering and operation project director Alex Hosie.

He said construction of the actual gas plant across the water behind Sullom Voe will start in earnest in October and the steel modules will start arriving from Kuwait early next year. Meanwhile, sub-contractor Morrison Construction is laying the concrete foundations.

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Petrofac’s offshore engineering and operations managing director Bill Dunnett, from Thurso, said he was very proud of the gas plant project and what had been achieved already with completion of the first phase.

He remembered vividly the Sullom Voe project when it was in full flight. “It was a legendary build project and operation,” he said, and had proved to be a great source of income for Shetland.

He hoped the gas plant would be of major benefit too. The accommodation camp was only started in January, he said, but had been built to a high quality – a standard Petrofac intends to maintain throughout its whole project.

A nostalgic council convener Sandy Cluness told reporters the day’s event reminded him very much of the opening of Sullom Voe Terminal back in 1981.

“The feeling is similar,” Mr Cluness said. “We’re on the edge of a new experience and I’m sure it is going to be good for Shetland as a whole.”

Afterwards the opening the guests were whisked off to Lerwick for lunch onboard the Dutch tall ship Gulden Leeuw which is catering for several executive receptions during its visit to Shetland.


Add Your Comment
  • John Mcabney

    • November 25th, 2011 17:38

    I have many happy memories of my time in the old firth camp in Mossbank in the late 70s -early eighties .Sadly many of the men i worked with on the construction at The Voe have passed away to the great oil terminal in the sky.There was so many characters then in the camp bars namely the Members bar ,The Sports bar and the famous Welly bar .There were thousands of men living between Firth and Toft camp doing the 4 weeks on and 1 off .There were no tvs in the rooms or radios or anything like that and the walls were so thin you could literally hear the guy next door breaking wind and snoring .Ahh bliss and the wonderful views of the Sheland countryside and the skilfull musicians that seemed to crop up all over the place like magic.

  • peter hollywood

    • April 11th, 2016 12:45

    Worked there 76 to end 78 great times at firth camp worked hard long hours you would be counting days left to your week off got caught with fog a couple of times at sumbra airport taking off and landing there was something different had to get out by boat from lerwick even so enjoyed it iiworked for jmj from n.ireland who then the consortimg ljk

  • Keith forsyth

    • October 31st, 2016 6:48

    I worked on the Stena Baltica then up at Toft camp from 79-82 had a great time there I was the projectionist on the stena then worked in the canteens at Toft , just a 20 yr old boy then

  • Davie campbell

    • December 14th, 2017 16:15

    Great memories, work there in 72, it was just a big hill, was among the 1st to arrive, first thing we built was a bar!. I was a commie chef aka kitchen porter. Made great mates, and some great characters, Big Archie from Edinburgh, Brian Gentles from Dundee, the Geratty boys, Tommy Riley head chef, and big John Jo, Old Irish man called Barney, looked like a naavy, but was actually the man in charge of moving the hill, always 2 poached eggs on toast, for his brekkie, great fella. Think I was the first Scottish guy, to be invited into the press camp. Yes, happy, times!

  • Ron Gordon

    • December 28th, 2017 14:52

    Ron Gordon worked as a welder late 70 s stayed at Toft, remember Sullom Voe news and the ghost Viking in room 22. When checking in made sure we were not in it or either side, was there when royal yacht Brittania and the queen inaugurated the terminal. Remember the cabaret nights the gym and running to Mossbank and back memories. Also if you won the bingo full house you got off a week early good times, also there when John Lennon was killed Dec – 8-1980.

  • Angela Bonnar

    • May 1st, 2019 2:39

    Does anyone remember my amazing daddy – Charlie Bonar – originally from Donegal (but living in Glasgow)… white hair and a smiley face, smoked the pipe. He used to write me letters when he was away in Sullom Voe and I used to cry when he left us for his time away there.
    Planning to travel up later this month and see where he worked and lived when working on the construction of the Terminal. Any info would be much appreciated…thanks in advance x

  • Bernadette Murphy

    • January 24th, 2020 7:51

    My late husband Oliver Murphy worked in the 70’s in shetlands for JMJ contractors from Banbridge. Newry. He worked a drilling rig along with Brian Murphy. Banbridge. He had great memories of hos time there & made a lot of friends.

  • David campbell

    • May 8th, 2020 9:02

    Angela, I worked up there in 72,_when i was 22, the name does not ring a bell, but the description fits an older man that I knew. We called him ‘barney’. He was one of the top men at the time, I used to serve him his breakfast, always two poached eggs on toast. I remember one time we had a new chef arrive, John something, he was english, he was above me, as I was only a breakfast chef. Anyway, one day I am serving Barney with his usual 2 poached eggs, and he comes up and tells me it’s only 1 egg per man, take the other egg off his plate. I tell him to go take a flying #### to himself, and do it himself. I exchanged glances with Barney as he removed the egg, well I am glad to say that was the last day I saw him, – packed home On the next flight. Arrogant git!. Well done Barney, A gentleman in my opinion. Quick mention to the Gerraty? Boys, Shaun, martin, joe, John joe, also Brian Gentles, dundee . Yes and lots more that I forget the names, great people, and great times, the local people were nice to me as well, Rosie (twins) Dawn, old Gilbert at post office, to name a few.


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