The drilling rig that ran aground in bad weather on the Isle of Lewis a little over two weeks ago has been successfully refloated and stablized and is now under tow to a safe harbor, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency said Tuesday.
The rig, Transocean Winner, was refloated from Dalmore Bay on the west coast of Lewis at 10pm Monday night with the help of tugs and a high. It is now under tow by support vessels make about 1-1.5 knots per hour to Broad Bay, located on the island’s east coast, some 40 miles away.
Earlier this morning, the coastguard conducted an overflight of Dalmore Bay to examine the water for any sign of discharge, sheen or pollution from the rig. There was no pollution reported in the area.
A slight sheen was detected following the path of the rig, which the coastguard says is associated with the ongoing pressurization of tanks to maintain the rig’s stability. Support boats from marine environmental contractor Briggs Marine is accompanying the tow and are breaking up the light sheen. Additional counter pollution equipment is on board the vessels should it be required.
The Temporary Exclusion Zone remains in place at Dalmore Bay until the seabed has been thoroughly checked for any debris or environmental impact.
A Temporary Exclusion Zone of 1,000 meters has also been established in Broad Bay by the coastguard.
“We are taking advantage of the favorable weather conditions following this big step forward, and we will continue to closely monitor the rig whilst it is under tow,” commented Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) for Maritime Salvage & Intervention. “By all accounts the rig appears to be in a stable condition, and is now due to reach Broad Bay tomorrow morning. Once everything is declared safe, I will be looking at releasing the exclusion zone in Dalmore Bay.”
The refloating of the vessel Monday night came after nearly two weeks of preparing the rig for the operation.
The Transocean Winner ran aground August 8 after breaking free from a tow in heavy weather. The rig was carrying some 280 metric tons of diesel fuel when the incident occurred, and officials are trying to determine how much may have spilled from two breached fuel tanks. So far there have been no major reports of pollution.
“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the Western Isles Council and community for their patience and their gracious hospitality during this challenging and disruptive period. This salvage operation has required the united cooperation from so many different organizations who have spared no effort to ensure that this rig reaches safer waters. I would like to specifically mention Salvage Master, Sylvia Tervoort and the SMIT Salvage team, Transocean, Briggs Environmental, Western Isles Council and local community, Scottish Environment Group and other supporting government departments, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the emergency services – not to mention all the other supporting organizations, stakeholders and businesses who’ve assisted in this operation.”
The 30-year-old semi-submersible was en route from Norway to Malta when the incident occurred. It was reportedly destined for Turkey where it was supposed to be scrapped.