SOUTHAMPTON, UK – According to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) Maritime and Salvage Intervention has authorized Transocean to start preparing for its next attempt to load the Transocean Winner onto the semisubmersible heavy-lift vessel Hawk.
Severe storms caused the rig to run aground Dalmore Bay, on the Isle of Lewis, on Aug. 8. It was shortly thereafter refloated and transported to Broad Bay. Anchored and waiting, the MCA discussed options with Transocean, and it was decided that the drilling rig would be towed as dry cargo to Turkey.
The Hawk was then contracted from Norway’s Offshore Heavy Transport. Throughout September, a boom deployment exercise was delayed and loading operations were halted due to dangerous weather conditions. The Transocean Winner has been waiting amidst multiple temporary exclusion zones for an appropriate weather window to resume removal operations.
Most recently, the MCA updated on Oct. 1 that the day’s sea conditions were above the agreed safe limits. The Hawk remained on scene for the following day, but weather conditions continued to deteriorate so that the Transocean Winner was temporarily forced back onto its eight anchors.
However, Hugh Shaw, SOSREP, announced today that weather conditions over the next few days looked favorable and that it is an excellent opportunity to restart the operation.
Work to disconnect the anchors would begin this morning, and that the rig should be in position to move toward the Hawk by tomorrow.
If this current operation is unsuccessful, another heavy-lift vessel (HLV) will have to be brought in, as the Hawk is due to come off contract on Oct. 10, MCA revealed.
A second HLV has been identified, but the work to move the rig would have to be suspended pending its arrival at the Isle of Lewis in mid-late October.
“Potential weather windows for the operation are beginning to reduce very rapidly now,” Shaw said. “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.
“At the moment, though, I remain hopeful that this weather window will be sufficient for the operation to take place.”
Although diesel was reportedly onboard the rig, on Aug. 24, the MCA confirmed that an agency verification craft detected no pollution in Broad Bay or along the track to Dalmore Bay.
On Aug. 30, divers located and began to recover about 40 pieces of debris ranging in size from a laptop to scaffolding poles around the grounding site. However, the unstable weather conditions prevented workers from completing their search.