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Scottish newspaper claims Transocean has history of oil and chemical spills in North Sea

15 August 2016

A report by the Glasgow-based Sunday Herald claims that Transocean, whose Transocean Winner rig ran aground on the Isle of Lewis in severe weather conditions on August 9 with the possible release into the environment of 53 tonnes of diesel, has had 20 oil and chemical leaks from its North Sea rigs in three years and breached UK health and safety regulations.

Transocean Winner aground - Image: HM Coastguard
Transocean Winner aground - Image: HM Coastguard

According to the newspaper, there was a major spill on September 13 when a blocked valve on its John Shaw rig triggered the release of 2.03 tonnes of chemicals and 1.7 tonnes of oil. The rig experienced another chemical leak in 2014, while there were four leaks from the Prospect rig.

The Sunday Herald also quoted an earlier marine pollution report shows that Transocean rigs suffered eight chemical and oil leaks in 2013, including a diesel spill at Queens Dock in Invergordon. In 2012 there were six leaks, including more than 15 tonnes of cement from the Sedco 714 rig.

On top of this, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued Transocean with nine improvement notices for breaching safety laws over the last 10 years. The most recent, in December 2015, accused the company of failing to ensure its pipe racking system on the John Shaw rig was working properly.

In June 2015, the HSE said the company had failed to ensure that contractors were not put at risk in a confined space in the mud pit room on the Sedco 704 rig. In October 2012 HSE accused Transocean of having ineffective arrangements for guarding dangerous machinery on the drill floor of the Paul B Loyd Junior rig.

The HSE also issued six other improvement notices to Transocean between 2006 and 2011 alleging various breaches of safety rules. All the improvement notices had been complied with, the HSE said.

The semi-submersible Transocean Winner was being towed from Norway to Malta to be broken up when it ran aground, holing two of its four fuel tanks and releasing up to 53 of the 280 tonnes of diesel within its tanks. Hugh Shaw, the UK government’s  Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, said on August 15 the rig was unlikely to be refloated until the end of the month.

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