Petrofac plans to bring third accommodation barge to town

Petrofac is looking into the possibility of bringing a third accommodation barge to Lerwick to house gas plant construction workers later this summer.

The 213-room Bibby Stockholm has been berthed at the town’s Morrison Dock since March, while last week the Kalmar barge arrived and will be at Albert Wharf in the centre of town until well into 2014.

Meanwhile, the Bibby Challenge, in Scalloway Harbour, is expected to begin housing construction workers for BP’s huge upgrade of Sullom Voe’s oil terminal.

Lerwick Port Authority today confirmed that Petrofac had approached the harbour trust about the possibility of berthing a third barge.

The Lerwick Port Authority tugs Kebister and Knab shift the accommodation barge Kalmar from Victoria Pier to Albert Dock on Monday afternoon. Photo: Ryan Leith
The Lerwick Port Authority tugs Kebister and Knab shift the accommodation barge Kalmar from Victoria Pier to Albert Dock on Monday afternoon. Photo: Ryan Leith

LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson said Petrofac had this week informed the harbour trust that it was still trying to negotiate the hire of a barge.

Petrofac would be looking to hire the third barge for around six months starting in around August. Should that be the case, Ms Laurenson said it could possibly be accommodated at its new Mair’s Yard quay – between Holmsgarth and Lerwick Power Station, where a new fish market is to be built – which should be completed by then.

“But we will need to do significant work on a suitable access road, sewerage etc. and we are not minded to do anything until we have confirmation from Petrofac,” she told this newspaper. “We’ll have a look at it once we know [whether a third barge is coming].”

Meanwhile, Ms Laurenson said financial and logistical factors meant stationing the Kalmar barge in the heart of the town centre had been the most sensible option.

It will stay at Albert Wharf, next to the Bressay ferry terminal and almost directly opposite the Thule Bar, for nine months. Petrofac has an option to extend its hire of the barge for a further three months, meaning it could remain in Lerwick until June 2014.

Some locals have bemoaned the Kalmar’s “unsightly” presence since its arrival late last week – coinciding with the Bergen-Lerwick yacht race and the midsummer carnival weekend.

Housing over 200 gas plant workers, the Kalmar is the first barge of its kind to be situated so close to the town centre.

Some have questioned whether it could have been berthed in the SIC-owned Sella Ness harbour, much closer to the Total gas plant where those living on the Kalmar are working, instead.

But sleeping accommodation has to be outwith the “blast zone” radius from the nearby oil terminal. A prefabricated accommodation camp is just outside the blast zone, but the Sella Ness berths are inside it.

Ms Laurenson said the floatel companies had been unable to find a berthing location anywhere nearer the gas plant site.

In terms of its location within Lerwick Harbour, she said the Greenhead Base was out of the question because the Kalmar “does not require a deep-water berth and we could not take a valuable deep-water berth out of use for nine months when not necessary”.

In addition, Ms Laurenson said the LPA only had a limited number of “straight line” quays suitable for vessels as lengthy as the Kalmar. The barge also “has to be connected to shore services – water, sewage and electricity – and this is all near to hand at Albert Wharf”.

Residents on board are collected by bus from the barge every working day prior to 7am, and bussed back in the evening.

A Petrofac spokeswoman said it had not been responsible for choosing the barge’s location: “This was the option made available to us by Lerwick Port Authority,” she said.

Promote Shetland manager Andy Steven said its webcam in Lerwick Harbour had been temporarily taken offline “to reprogram it for more pleasing views and to give residents of the barge more privacy”.

But Mr Steven said the tourist body had not received any other negative feedback about the Kalmar’s presence.


Add Your Comment
  • Carolyn Stinson

    • June 26th, 2013 23:36

    Sorry, i was amazed to find the accommodation barge moored so close to the city, Actually emailed relations to find out what it was, and to say how horrible it is. You have such lovely dock views and the web cam is fabulous, Why would you want to spoil the first impressions of visitors to your special Islands.Surely there is another place for this barge.Carolyn Stinson NZ

  • Johann Siebert

    • June 28th, 2013 6:30

    Unsurprising to find from its website that Petrofac’s registered office is in St Helier, Jersey…….

  • Bruce McKinney

    • July 3rd, 2013 21:45

    Although it does seem a ghastly sight, if the “floatel” is housing workers to bring in more oil, therefor more money, therefor more independence from GB’s pockets, then bring those barges in! I know Shetlanders treasure their independence and pride of place (and rightfully so!) so having to deal with unsightly barges for a year is well worth the sacrifice of temporarily having the “Horrible” if it helps in any way of maintaining the Shetlanders’ way of life!
    Go Shetland!

  • David Spence

    • July 4th, 2013 1:15

    I think it is a case, like all profit orientated greedy capitalsts, of the Ports and Harbour’s wanting to make more money where it is situated regardless to the impact it has on tourism, the pier waterfront etc etc. Think of yourself and screw everybody else regardless is their mentality.

  • Jenny Henry

    • July 4th, 2013 10:33

    I think, David, the oil & gas industry will bring far more money into Shetland than seasonal tourism ever will.

    The LPA has to make money to function and provide the excellent harbour facilities that they already do. Bringing money into the islands, in whatever way is necessary, has to be commended, and if the temporary floatels can boost that income for a few years, and therefore help sustain Shetland’s reasonable prosperity, there’s no-one going to be stupid enough to turn that opportunity down.

    The floatel lights will be cheery on a dark winter’s night when there aren’t any yachts or cruise ships inower and the fishing fleet and oil boats are berthed ootby.

    Personally, I think all this ‘activity’ is lightsome and we should all make the best of it while it lasts… even kinda wishin I was 18 again! 😉

  • David Spence

    • July 4th, 2013 11:37

    lol Jenny, I take note of what you have said and I agree, mostly, in what you have said.

    I know the present situation with the floating accommodation barges is a temporary one, even so, I still do think the LPA could have consulted with local traders or people and, possibly, berthed these massive barges elsewhere where they were not so intrusive to the Lerwick main waterfront or give tourists from cruisers boarding buses to go on tour around the islands a rather bad first impression of what Shetland represents and is.

    I’ll not ask why you would like to be younger again, only to say ‘ You are as young as you feel ‘…….as they say lol

  • Jenny Henry

    • July 4th, 2013 23:30

    David, I fear the Shetland Hotel (a permanent, land-based ‘floatel’), and the defunct, derelict Judane building, along with trying to cross the road from the Holmsgarth ferry terminal, probably have more effect on visitors’ first impressions.

    You only have to walk a few yards either side of the floatel at the Albert Dock to see the rest of the harbour and Bressay etc, or wander up from the pier to the Esplanade to see the public lavvies and an empty, if beautifully tarmaced, Harrison Square.

    Cruise ships will visit Lerwick on about 32 days this year. Here for a day and gone again… and those aboard probably won’t actually spend an awful lot of money ashore.

    The floatels’ inhabitants are here for a while; they’re big earners and need/want to spend money.

    I would think the Co-op is fairly happy with the oot-ower floatel being berthed where it is, and ‘Da Street’, let’s face it, can do with all the business it can get… some enterprising business owners might even decide to stay open a bit later and take advantage of all this extra money circulating in the local economy.

    What “Shetland represents” probably means different things to different people: I’d like to think we’re a go-ahead, welcoming and innovative part of the world… with the added benefits of puffins, ponies, Fair Isle ganseys and Up-Helly-A’… (and that’s another night I’d like to be 18 again)! 😉

  • David Spence

    • July 5th, 2013 11:11

    lol Jenny. I take your point again……… and yes, although the present situation with the floating barges may be an ‘ eye-sore ‘ for noo, it will, as you have said, bring in extra income to the local shops and da street……..which could do with the extra trade.

    I guess, like anything that sticks oot (lol) it will stand out quite significantly until one gets use to the sight of it (lol) 😉 Even so, it does have a big impact on the pier front no matter how much one may argue its justification for being there.

    I do agree with you that, even today, the Shetland Hotel is still a bit of an eye sore which welcomes any people getting off the ferry………almost as bad as the 1960’s/1970’s prefab construction flats at da sooth end here…..very much an eye-sore and most certainly not in harmony with the rest of the surrounding building’s (beggars belief how the Council ever gave it planning permission (assuming there was a Planning Dept then (one thinks probably not (lol)))

    I have to say though, it is seems very evident in many aspects of our society today, here as well as elsewhere in the UK, that money interests very much come first over anything else, regardless to the negative impact this may have on that society.

    It is a shame, as I fear because of this mentality of profit and ‘ quick buck ‘ Shetlands traditional craft skills will disappear I reckon within the next 20 – 30 years as younger people are not taking these skills up as it does not give enough money or profit in proportion to the time. In many ways, there is a bit of an oxymoron when it comes to the mentality of wanting goods cheap (even although the same people that complain about the Shetland knitting industry and jumpers costing too much are quite prepared to pay £70, £80 or more for a ‘ Designer Top ‘ which in many cases would cost more than a Shetland Jumper………..but in this, especially in the fashion and vanity industries, ‘ Designer Society ‘ we live in now, some people are stupid enough to buy a designer garment of clothing with the company name, in big old writing, plastered all over it or lets tear holes in our jeans and call it fashion (lol)…….great business plan, rip people off by getting them to walk around advertising our company brand and name… said ‘ Goods for the stupid of society ‘…..sorry if its abrupt and straight to the point Jenny, but our society (certainly the industries mentioned) is totally at the behest of the multinational companies who only care about profits and nothing else.

    ok, I will stop my ranting lol Not before time I hear folk say lol


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.