World’s largest construction vessel arrives at Dales Voe

The largest offshore structure yet to be decommissioned at Lerwick has arrived at the deep seawater port at Dales Voe.

The platform’s arrival follows a massive operation involving the world’s largest construction vessel, Allseas’ Pioneering Spirit – the first time she has ever visited a UK port.

The 14,200 tonne Ninian Northern platform topside has been taken to Dales Voe, after being removed in a single lift in just two hours.

Delivery of Ninian Northern also marks the inauguration of a new heavy-duty decommissioning pad at the Dales Voe base, where the facility has been developed by Lerwick Port Authority.

Chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority Captain Calum Grains said he was delighted to see Pioneering Spirit arrive.

“This is the start of a tremendous operation for Lerwick,” he told The Shetland Times.

“We’ve got the Pioneering Spirit, which is the world’s largest construction decommissioning vessel just coming into the port just now.

“It’s the first time she’s ever been in a UK port and Lerwick is one of the very few places that she’s ever been coming into.

“It really shows the capacity and capability of Lerwick Port Authority that we can handle this size of project.”

He said the Ninian Northern topside was “just lifted this morning” and would be in the quayside in less than 24 hours.

“Ninian North, overnight, will be transferred from Pioneering Spirit onto the large cargo barge that’s here – the Iron Lady – and that will take a number of hours overnight.”

Saturday morning will see the barge transferred to the quayside, where Ninian North will be “skidded onshore” to the new decommissioning pad.

Mr Grains added the process of stripping the topside would “sustain and maintain” jobs in that sector and also “create new opportunities for employment,” with local companies in the supply chain likely to be involved in the project.

“There will be new jobs created for the contractors involved in the deconstruction and the waste management part of this project.

“There are going to be around 50 people involved here for the initial stages and, throughout the project, the contractors are planning to have somewhere between 30 and 50 people on site here.

“It’s quite a significant number of jobs.”

Almost all – 97 per cent – of what comes ashore will be re-used or recycled, Mr Grains added.

It comes 12 years after expansion plans were developed by Lerwick Port Authority to make the best use of the opportunities on offer from the decommissioning sector, and follows on from the previous big decommissioning job, Buchan Alpha.

“We’ve built a new quayside with a design that allows these large structures to come across. Even the Ninian projects on its own has been three to four years in the planning,” Mr Grains added.

Pioneering Spirit was originally scheduled to arrive in Lerwick earlier this year until the Covid-19 crisis sparked a delay in her arrival.

The coronavirus also made it a difficult summer for Lerwick Port Authority, with cruise ships no longer able to visit the port.

But Mr Grains said the eventual arrival of Pioneering Spirit was much welcomed.

“We’ve really seen a big, big reduction in our tonnage and numbers of ships for the year so far, so this really is a piece of brightness that’s coming after that difficult spell.”


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