Times Past

25 Years Ago

The Sullom Voe terminal operators, BP, have been accused of using the fall in oil prices as an opportunity to indulge in scaremongering which would strengthen the terminal management’s position with the workforce.

After speculation about major cutbacks at the terminal, including the closure of a jetty, a union spokesman said he suspected that the rumours had originated from the terminal’s management. “It lets them wield a very big negotiating stick,” he said, “if the workers think there’s a steep decline.”

BP this week strenuously denied both that there would be any cuts in the next few years and that any speculation about this had originated from them.

But a recent SIC minute shows that earlier this year the terminal operators did consider closing a jetty.

According to the council’s min­ute of the most recent meeting of the Zetland Harbour Advisory Committee, Mr John Flashman, Shell’s Brent systems manager based in London: “indicated that the industry might within a year or two ask the council to shut down one of the jetties as an experiment to see whether it was practicable to continue to operate the terminal with the facilities at the remaining loading jetties. Captain Langdon Nichols (BP’s marine superintendent at Sullom Voe) confirmed that that was an option which was under consideration by the terminal oper­ator, that is the ‘mothballing’ of one of the loading jetties. Mr Flashman emphasised, however, that the industry was conducting long-term studies of the situation and that the operation of Sullom Voe terminal was under continuous review.”

BP this week sought to play down the significance of these comments, saying that they were made while the oil price was at its lowest, and while the operators were “envisaging all possible scenarios”.

Terminal spokesman Mr Peter Guy said he could deny any rumour about redundancies “and deny most categorically that the management would disseminate this”.

50 Years Ago

Shetland trades people faced a big loss of revenue through a clause in the recent “little budget” which called on small foreign fishing boats to pay 2.2d duty on every gallon of fuel oil they buy at a British port.

Mr Jo Grimond, the islands’ MP, was asked by representatives of oil distributing firms in Shetland to make a case to the Customs and Excise to get the duty relaxed, and news came on Wednesday that he has been successful.

The extra duty only applies to foreign fishing vessels under 40 tons – our own fishing vessels and all vessels over this weight are exempt from paying the tax. But the unfortunate thing about it is that practically all the Norwegian and Swedish fishing boats which are regular visitors to Lerwick and Scalloway are under this limit.

Every year some thousand Nor­wegian and Swedish boats visit Shetland, but the Norwegian Fisher­men’s Association circularised their members instructing them that it would be to their advantage to carry spare drums of oil with them from their home ports.

The bigger vessels are exempt from tax if they take their fuel from a wholesale bond point.

Mr R. A. Anderson, local Esso depot manager, said that the new duty would mean a big loss to his firm during the year, as small for­eign fishing boats buy between 20,000 and 30,000 gallons of marine fuel from the firm every year.

That would have been only part of the loss. Mr Kjell Brandl, welfare office, estimated that Norwegian fishermen alone spend nearly £70,000 in the islands ever year, and added that there was no doubt that the imposition of the new duty would stop many of the boats from calling at Lerwick and Scalloway. Twopence a gallon meant a lot to a small fishing boat over a long period, and it was obvious that the fishermen would simply carry oil drums on deck, and not bother about calling at Shetland …

On Wednesday afternoon Mr Jo Grimond received the following letter from Mr Edward Boyle, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, stating that duty free oil would soon be available to all boats: “The Customs have reviewed this matter, and I am glad to say that they are making arrangements under which, in the near future, duty free oil will be available to all fishing vessels, proceeding abroad, irrespective of their size.”

100 Years Ago

Exciting Scene at the Harbour – Plucky Rescue – At this season of the year, when nights are growing dark, there is but little life or animation to be encountered at the Fish Market, especially on a Mon­day evening; but Monday last was a complete change to the settled order of affairs, and for a time Alexandra Wharf was the scene of much excitement. In the early after­noon of Monday, Gilbert Cluness, our “one and only,” varied his usual regular mode of life by getting “foo and unco happy,” but as the evening advanced the unca happy stage seemed to desert him, and his placid outlook on life grew dim and uncertain. Shortly before nine o’clock in the evening, while on Commercial Road, he indulged in some frantic capers, and addressed himself to unseen powers in language which was “frequent and painful and free,” and culminated by attempting to knock down a passer-by. Failing in this latter attempt, he turned round and declared that he was sick of it all, and would end it by drowning himself. This remark was overheard by, among others, Mr John Robertson, diver, who saw “Gibbie” make for the Esplanade. On seeing him pass the corner of the Market, Mr Robertson at once sprang over the rail and ran down the wharf, where he was able to distinguish Cluness in the water about thirty feet from the seawall. Securing a rope, Mr Robertson jumped into the sea and swimming off, succeeded in catching hold of Cluness and dragged him close to the bows of the hulk Princess of Wales, which was moored alongside the wharf; but although a good swimmer, he was unable to proceed further, encumbered as he was by his clothes, and dragging after him the limp body of Cluness. He caught hold of the cable of the Princess and supported himself, holding on to Cluness meantime. Immediately after Mr Robertson had got hold of the cable, Mr W.P. Galvin, an officer of H.M. Customs, presently stationed at Lerwick, came on the scene, and without a moment’s hesitation he sprang into the water and swam out to the two men. Meantime those on the wharf had been looking in vain for a rope to throw to the man in the water, when Mr W. Robertson, Commercial Road, came on the scene and at once sprang on board the hulk, and when aboard, he found that a rope had been thrown from the vessel to the men in the water. Mr John Robertson immediately passed the rope around Cluness, and shouted for those on shore to haul Cluness to the quay. Another rope was thrown which Mr Galvin caught hold of and was hauled up the side of the ship. On reaching safety himself he was very much con­cerned about John Robertson who was still in the water, and it was with difficulty that he was prevented from plunging overboard again to tender assistance to the man who was still left in the water. However, the rope to which John Robertson had been holding on was taken hold of by willing hands on board the hulk, and he was pulled aboard in a much exhausted condition. A small boat crossing the front of the wharf was attracted by the commotion of the crowd ashore, and the crew picked up “Gibbie” and landed him at the north end of the Alexandra Wharf, and thus a promised tragedy was turned into farce.


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