Engine failure forces crew of new Sullom Voe tug to abandon tanker tow

One of the council’s troublesome new £7 million tugs lost an engine yesterday while about to tow an oil tanker into Sullom Voe.

The tanker Penelope had to be taken back out of port by the other three accompanying tugs while the Solan returned to Sella Ness and her crew swapped tugs, returning with the Shalder.

The tanker berthing was delayed by around an hour but there was no increased danger during the incident and the weather was perfect with almost no wind. According to reports the Solan was about to go alongside the tanker when the failure occurred and her tugmaster aborted the manoeuvre.

Investigations into the engine failure on the Voith-powered tug have now come up with a possible cause but head of port operations Roger Moore is still in the process of having it verified. “I’m waiting on the technical experts to get back to me,” he said this morning. “They think they know what it is. It’s a disappointment when any tug has a failure. It’s unfortunate that it happens to be one of the new tugs but it could just as easily have been any of the other tugs.”

Captain Moore said the Voith tugs in the fleet were generally reliable but a spare tug was kept in case of breakdown. “It has happened on the Dunter and Tystie in the past. It has happened with other tugs. It is not a regular occurrence but it is something that does happen from time to time, which is why we do have a back-up tug available.”

The Solan and Bonxie have suffered a string of problems since they were launched in Spain last year and some concerns remain three months after they went into action.

Last week marine sources at Sella Ness said there was a lack of confidence in the new vessels, despite assurances given to councillors and the public by Captain Moore that the problems had been rectified. One man warned of fears of a power blackout at a crucial time.

Both new tugs have proved awkward for their masters to handle. One source said last week they were still not being used for handling tankers at speed. He told The Shetland Times: “They’re still not right and I don’t think they ever will be. There’s something that’s inherently not matching between the hull and the propulsion units.”

The Solan has had a problem with a jammed anchor and a faulty winch.


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