Local News for Monday 3rd October 2016

Beds clash looms as rig stays put
With just 10 days to go until the Royal National Mòd comes to the Western Isles, the team gathered to shift the oil rig anchored in Broad Bay may find themselves short of places to sleep. Up to 250 salvage, recovery, pollution control and support personnel have created an accommodation boom for Lewis since the Transocean Winner went aground at Dalmore in August. But from next week pre-booked choirs, school groups, media and Mòd supporters will arrive to take up their hotel and guest house bookings, leaving a potential bed shortage for workers involved in the rig recovery. All 86 rooms at the Caladh Hotel are fully booked from October 16th, while from the 12th BBC crews arrive at the Caberfeidh, where they occupy many of the 46 available rooms. A spokesman for the Tourism Office in Stornoway said the rig teams had filled many rooms over recent weeks, but could face a problem if the rig has not moved by the time the Mòd starts.

Read more: Local News for Monday 3rd October 2016

Local News for Friday 30th September 2016

Rig on the move
Calm weather and sea conditions yesterday have allowed the operation to move the stricken oil rig Transocean Winner from Broad Bay to begin. Yesterday morning the first of two 12-hour operations to lift anchors, four at a time, was begun, leaving the rig attached to tugs, which will tow her towards the heavy load carrying vessel OHT Hawk. The Hawk will begin to submerge ready to receive the rig today and a temporary exclusion zone of 1000m is in place until the rig is secured. Precision placing on the deck of the Hawk, using timber cribbing to cushion metal, is essential. All work will take place in daylight and any potential pollution monitored, with an aircraft overflying Broad Bay throughout the operation. Once on board the Hawk, it’s expected to take several days to secure the load using welding, before the rig finally departs Broad Bay and heads for Malta, and on to Turkey. Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative For Maritime Salvage and Intervention said, ‘Our intention all the way along has been to get this operation under way without endangering life or the environment around. All the preparation work has been done in anticipation of this moment, so that we could be ready when the time comes – as it now has.”
Tune into Behind the Headlines on Isles FM at 4pm today to hear Hugh Shaw’s deputy, Colin Mulvana, explain the moving and lifting process in detail.
CalMac moves ferries into place
Yesterday’s calm conditions also meant that the CalMac ferry MV Hebrides, damaged on entry to Lochmaddy harbour on Sunday, could sail on the first leg of her journey to repairs in dry dock in Greenock. After she left Lochmaddy the MV Clansman became the first vessel to dock at the port since Sunday, closely followed by MV Isle of Lewis. Both ships began a series of runs designed to ease the passenger and freight backlog. The full Tarbert, Uig and Lochmaddy triangle service resumes today, with an additional Lochmaddy to Uig return sailing. Meanwhile services between Lochboisdale and Mallaig have been cancelled during the contingency period, bringing CalMac some criticism from travellers to and from South Uist. One frustrated traveller pointed out the extra costs and time needed to reach alternative points of departure, and added: “Not the most convenient solution for the residents of Lochboisdale or people who can't get to Uig or Lochmaddy by car! “ CalMac says the revised arrangements will remain in place for at least a week.
Fishing issue gains national support
National voices in the fishing industry have taken up a call by Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil for action from the UK Government to help with skill shortages. The Western Isles trawl fleet is down by more than 60 skilled crew, but seamen from outside Europe are being denied entry to the UK to take up the work.  Duncan Macinnes, Secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association, said the problem was having a major impact on the prawn fishery on the west coast of Scotland, pointing out seven boats tied up across the Western Isles due to crew shortages. Mr MacNeil’s call for UK Government action has been backed by the industry journal Fishing News.  Editor Dave Linkie said there were difficulties for fishermen throughout the UK and backed Mr MacNeil’s call for urgent action. He said: “Less than 3 months ago I was privileged to attended the opening of the new secure harbour at Ardveenish, which provided local skippers confidence to invest in newer boats. It is extremely disappointing that some of these boats are now forced to remain in harbour due to a shortage of crews”.
Salvation Army thanks generous islanders
The Salvation Army in Stornoway has publically thanked the generous public of Lewis and Harris for donations to their annual appeal last week. The appeal raises funds for community services and support to people experiencing homelessness, older people, divided families and people trying to get back into regular work. Local officer Callum Newton said: “The generous giving of everybody has been appreciated as has the warm and friendly conversations that all the volunteers had while collecting in town. We want to thank you all. If The Salvation Army can be of assistance to you or someone you know then please do not hesitate to get in touch or visit us at our hall on Bayhead”.

Local News for Wednesday 28th September 2016

Ferries juggled as Hebrides goes into dock
The MV Hebrides has been badly enough damaged in Sunday’s incident at Lochmaddy to need dry dock repairs. The starboard propeller shaft tangled with chains from Lochmaddy Marina's pontoon and her hull was also damaged. She is to be moved to Greenock in stages and it is planned that she will enter dry dock  at the end of the week, if weather allows.

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 28th September 2016

Local News for Tuesday 27th September 2016

Ferry woes grow as bad weather moves in
The operation to return the MV Hebrides to service after Sunday’s crunch in Lochmaddy harbour could take longer than expected, and bad weather is now adding to the disruption. CalMac yesterday issued two statements – one updating contingency plans for the routes between North Uist, Harris and Skye, and one containing the first general weather warning of the season. Where the MV Hebrides is concerned, they warned that disruption could continue ‘for some time’ after divers yesterday made an inspection of the vessel’s hull. She’s currently tied up at the pier at Lochmaddy.

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 27th September 2016

Local News for Monday 26th September 2016

Ferry grounded in Lochmaddy
Ferry travel is in disarray after the MV Hebrides ran aground in Lochmaddy harbour yesterday, smashing into the new marina and grounding her hull on the shore. CalMac said that 76 passengers, with 13 cars, a motorhome and a lorry were on board as MV Hebrides, travelling from Tarbert, approached Lochmaddy port at 11.05am yesterday. The vessel was unable to to reduce speed and struck both pontoons in Lochmaddy harbour, as well as the seabed. No one was injured, the vessel's hull remains intact and all passengers and vehicles were safely disembarked. The Hebrides is now alongside and divers will make underwater investigations into damage today, ahead of a full enquiry into what happened.

Read more: Local News for Monday 26th September 2016