Transocean Winner May Have to Stay Put for the Winter
The UK Secretary of State’s special representative for the Transocean Winner salvage has given approval for one more attempt at loading the damaged rig onto a heavy lift ship for transport to Turkey. If the operation has to be called off again, Transocean may have to prepare to store the rig in its current location through the winter.
Hugh Shaw, the government’s representative, said that the weather looks favorable for another loading attempt later this week.
The Hawk arrived on September 20, and the loading operation has been frustrated by weather ever since. The last try had to be canceled due to worsening conditions, and the rig was reconnected to eight heavy anchors at its temporary staging site in Broad Bay, Isle of Lewis.
The salvage team began disconnecting the anchors once more on Wednesday, and they expect to begin moving the rig towards the semisubmersible heavy lift ship Hawk on Thursday.
The operation is somewhat pressed for time: the Hawk will come off contract on Monday, and if the Winner is not loaded by then, Transocean will have to charter a different heavy lift vessel. The firm has identified an alternative ship, but it would have to wait until mid- to late October for its arrival.
A loading operation will take about four days of good weather to carry out safely, said Transocean representative David Walls, speaking to the BBC.
In addition to the limited availability of the Hawk, the probability of suitable weather will diminish later in the season.
"Potential weather windows for the operation are beginning to reduce very rapidly now," Shaw said in a statement. "Although we are considering alternative loading locations, the success of any loading wherever it takes place is diminishing with the approach of winter. With this in mind, I have asked Transocean to look at other contingencies including a plan for maintaining the rig in Broad Bay over the winter if it becomes necessary. We know that the rig can be safely secured there if needed."
The Winner ran aground on August 8 near Carloway, on the other side of the island, after its towline parted in a storm. It spilled 12,000 gallons of diesel, but the fuel quickly dissipated, leaving no signs of pollution.
A team from Smit Salvage and Transocean refloated the rig on August 22, and two tugs towed it around the island to safe harbor.
If loading is completed before winter, the Hawk (or a replacement heavy lift ship) will carry the Winner to a Turkish demolition yard where the rig will be scrapped. Local officials had called for all or part of the scrapping to take place on the Isle of Lewis as a way to boost the local economy, similar to the local dismantling process for the wreck of the Costa Concordia. However, Transocean announced in early September that it would opt for a Turkish shipbreaker instead.