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UK Coastguard Agency confirms tonnes of oil lost from grounded exploration rig

11 August 2016

The semi-submersible rig Transocean Winner ran aground on the island of Lewis off the western coast of Scotland on August 8. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) confirmed three days’ later that two of its four diesel fuel tanks appeared to have been breached and estimated that the maximum amount of diesel that could have been lost was 53 tonnes.

The MCA said that no pollution had been detected in the area of the rig and that counter pollution surveillance aircraft were flying over the location and had found no sheen or sign of oil in the water or on land. Diesel is a light and non persistent oil which presents much lower environmental risks than heavy black crude oil and the bulk of any release could have evaporated, the agency said.

The MCA has set up a 300-metre wide exclusion zone around the beach at Dalmore near Carloway, for safety reasons and to prevent onlookers blocking access to the site for salvage teams and emergency services.

Teams from Smit Salvage and Transocean are continuing inspections on board the 17,000-tonne rig, which at the time of the grounding was carrying 280 tonnes of diesel in its fuel tanks.

The tug Union Bear remains in the vicinity along with the Emergency Towing Vessel Herakles, which is funded by the UK Government to support the operation.

Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State's representative for maritime and salvage, continues to monitor the operations and is maintaining contact with all the key stakeholders including Transocean, Smit Salvage, the Scottish Environment Group and Western Isles Council.

The rig was blown onto the rocks during a severe gale as it was being towed from Norway to Malta.

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