SIC puts aside £1 million to repair Sullom Voe tugs

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The on-going saga of the council’s new tugs Solan and Bonxie was branded a “fiasco” by vice-chairman of the harbour board Robert Henderson today as it emerged that a budget of just over £1 million has been set aside to pay for the work needed to fix the tugs.

Mr Henderson asked when a report on the two tugs, which together cost £14 million and which have been out of service all year because of “directional stability issues”, would be available.

Infrastructure chief Phil Crossland told a meeting of the harbour board the results of the on-going tank modelling and simulation tests would be known later this month. A team would go through the results “critically” and the results would be brought to the next harbour board meeting. Harbour board member Alastair Cooper asked for a special meeting if the results came soon, and this was agreed to.

It is the council’s aspiration to have completed the study, made modifications and have the tugs back in service by next month. An amount of £1.065 million has been approved for this work.

The two 40-metre tugs, built in Spain, had problems from the start. Even before their delayed delivery in February last year they had undergone extensive modifications in the shipyard in Valencia.

In Sullom Voe the tugs – the most powerful to be owned by SIC with a bollard pull of 70 tonnes – proved difficult to steer in a straight line and were never deemed by crews to perform satisfactorily.

They were taken out of service in December after the Solan lost power and was struck by the tanker Loch Rannoch during a towing operation. The Solan was leading the tanker out of port and preparing to slip her rope when, without warning, she lost control and propulsion. She was struck by the tanker, which was doing about five knots. Fortunately the tug regained her systems and there were no damage or injuries.

Acting harbourmaster at Sella Ness Colin Reeves said last month that initial testing with a large wooden model had pointed to problems with the new tugs’ steering, and attempts to correct this by altering hull shape and skeg locations were ongoing. He added that propeller manufacturers Voith would provide data collected from the ship at the time of the accident.

The new tugs being out of service meant the council had to hire a replacement tug last month to provide cover while the 30-year-old tug Tirrick was in dry dock.

In a statement the council said: “Given the ongoing investigation into the tugs Solan and Bonxie the decision was taken to hire in a replacement tug, at a total cost of around £100,000, from Orkney Towage.

“This represents the most cost-effective and appropriate means of preventing disruption to the service.”

In June former tug chief engineer Jimmy Smith suggested the new tugs’ problem was some sort of unstable interaction between the hull and the water flow, which made them unable to steer straight when free-running, although they performed well while towing. He said: “There’s something wrong with the water flow over the hull which takes them off to one side. It’s something to do with the propellers and the design of the hull. It’s not going to be cheap to fix.”


Add Your Comment
  • Paul Barnett

    • September 6th, 2012 18:15

    Who the hell signed the contract for the new tugs and allowed this. If I buy something new and it disna work I sure as hell aint gonna pay to fix it.

  • Michael Grant

    • September 7th, 2012 15:12

    This is the whole problem with this council and certainly the previous council.Nobody is ever made accountable for huge mistakes and also never named in the press, another 1 million pounds of our money wasted on what amounts to gross mismanagement.Go on shetland journalists get them named and shamed.

  • john ridland

    • September 8th, 2012 13:19

    Its not an off the shelf tug its some heap o crap that the sic,sellaness,gang drew up ….. Now there left holding da baby,,,,,, Again…..Again ……. an Again….!!!

  • Douglas Young

    • September 10th, 2012 8:37

    A local authority has no justification for operating tugs, ferries nor airports/aircraft. These are commercial operations which should be run by private companies.
    Council Tax is unable to pay for mistakes such as.
    Social Care, road gritting, housing, education etc -plenty to be going on with.
    If the problem is “the hull is not passing through the water properly” – I paraphrase here – then the product is unfit for purpose. Return and refund. We do have a legal department to sort this.

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 10th, 2012 16:25

    Douglas Young were you referring to the tugs or the SIC when you said ‘the product is unfit for purpose?’ Fact is our public sector is now running every sort of business – cafes, restaurants, broadband, IT services, a cinema, leisure centres, district heating suppliers, they sell books and gifts, holiday accommodation, tickets, etc. Maybe it is OK for them to be bringing money into the local authority to cover costs? But it makes you wonder, if it is all done on a commercial basis, then why would we need to make cuts, if we are making so much money?


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