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Hebrides News


Oil rig tug didn’t seek shelter in worsening forecast, Transocean wiser in hindsight

22 November 2016

The tug towing the doomed Transocean Winner could have sought shelter when the weather unexpectedly worsened, said the oil rig’s owners.


Transocean says it could have had better “controls in place” which could have prevented the 17,600 tonne structure grounding on Lewis in a storm on 8 August.


The various parties involved in the operation to tow the redundant rig from Norway to Malta failed to grasp a window of opportunity to consider a contingency plan when conditions started to deteriorated, it emerged at a parliamentary inquiry.


Transocean’s operation director has been giving evidence to the UK Parliament’s transport committee which has launched a probe into the incident.


Dave Walls said there was a forecast of a “three day window of very benign weather” when the MV Alp Forward set off with the tow from Norway.


But the Met Office forecast changed to predict bad weather when the rig came around the north west of Scotland, he added.


“That was probably the first indication,” said Mr Walls.


Conservative MP, Iain Stewart, asked: “Was there anything which could have been done” from that point.


“Yes. I think there is,” responded Mr Walls.


“Some very different decisions” may have been made “had we very clear trigger points where all the stakeholders were informed and discussions to continue” to consider if the vessel should “heave to or seek shelter.”


“Ultimately the master would make that decision,” but having more people involved in the discussion may meant a different outcome for the events of 8 August, the inquiry heard.


Mr Walls also explained: “We had hold points where we could seek shelter. When the master was faced with the weather, he had that decision to make.


“With hindsight, we would probably say we wish it had been a different decision.”


However, the skipper “was making a decision in real time.”


Transocean received daily weather reports but “once we were actually in discussions, via the ALP office, with the master (of the tug), he was seeing weather that was worst than we saw on the forecast,” said Mr Walls


The tow was experiencing more severe conditions than predicted by forecasters, he told the panel.


The one-off evidence session is taking place due to a request from Western Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil.


Mr MacNeil asked Louise Ellman, chair of the transport select committee, to hold a hearing into the incident.