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.
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.