(AFP) – A salvage operation on an oil rig which ran aground off a remote Scottish island was halted on Wednesday due to bad weather.
It was still not clear how much diesel spilled from the rig’s ruptured fuel tanks when the 17,000 tonne Transocean Winner broke away from its tug early on Monday and was blown ashore on the Isle of Lewis in northwest Scotland.
An initial visit by salvage teams to the rig, which was carrying 280 tonnes of diesel but had no-one on board, found fuel tanks had been damaged.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was not possible to say how much oil had been released into the environment, as poor weather conditions on Wednesday made it impossible for the teams to return to the rig.
A spokesman for the Western Isles Emergency Planning Co-ordinating Group said the breached storage tanks were the likely cause of the “low level of pollution” detected on Monday afternoon.
An assessment of any potential environmental impact was underway, Scotland’s Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said in response to the accident.
“This whole incident raises serious questions about why this rig was being towed through Scottish waters when such stormy conditions were forecast, and the deputy first minister (John Swinney) has been in direct contact with the UK government about this very point,” Cunningham said.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch, an official body which investigates accidents in British waters, has launched a probe into what happened.
A 300-metre exclusion zone has been put in place and locals have been told to stay away from the spectacle, with UK Coastguard commander Mark Rodaway warning of the dangers of trying to get a closer look of the rig from remote cliff paths.