Oil Rig Transocean Winner Successfully Towed Off Rocks in Outer Hebrides
A 1km exclusion zone will be set up around the Transocean Winner rig while it is towed to safety around 54 miles away.
A 17,000-ton oil rig that ran aground in the Outer Hebrides has been safely towed off the rocks by two tug boats.
Stornoway coastguard said the Transocean Winner drilling rig was "safely off the rocks and now under tow" on Monday night - a fortnight after it was blown ashore in bad weather at Dalmore Bay on the Isle of Lewis.
The towline between the rig - with 280 tons of diesel on board - and its tug was lost en route from Norway to Malta amid high winds and heavy seas in the early hours of Monday 8 August.
Four fuel tanks were damaged, resulting in the loss of up to 53,000 litres of fuel, most of which is thought to have evaporated.
The remaining 200 tons of hydrocarbons, mainly diesel oil with small amounts of base oil and brine, were transferred from the rig to the supply vessel Olympic Orion at the weekend.
A 300m exclusion zone around the rig will remain in place while the salvage work continues.
There will also be a 1km exclusion zone while it is towed from Dalmore Bay to Broad Bay, on the east coast of Lewis, some 54 miles (87km) away.
Oil Rig Fuel Tanks Breached
Environmental groups fear that the grounded rig may pollute an area known for its outstanding natural beauty.
Two fuel tanks have been "breached" on an oil rig carrying 280 tonnes of diesel that ran aground on the Western Isles.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it is "unclear at this time" how much oil from the tanks has leaked to the environment.
The drilling rig Transocean Winner was blown ashore in severe weather on the western side of the Isle of Lewis early on Monday 08th August.
The semi-submersible rig detached from its tug during towing and severe weather prevented the line being reconnected.
No-one was on board when it grounded at Dalmore beach near Carloway.
People are being urged to stay away from the beach and a temporary 300-metre exclusion zone has been set up.
Salvage teams were winched on board the rig by helicopter on Tuesday 09th August, to assess the damage, but they have been unable to return due to bad weather in the area.
The diesel was being stored in a number of tanks on the rig, two of which seem to have been damaged.
Environmental groups had raised concerns about the incident.
Friends of the Earth Scotland said it could create a "serious problem" for vital wildlife, tourism and fishing in the area.
Director Dr Richard Dixon said: "If the diesel oil leaks into the environment, the clamour for answers as to why such a risky trip was attempted will grow much louder."
An MCA spokeswoman said: "The rig remains in the original position and was reported to be carrying 280 metric tonnes of diesel oil on board in total split between a number of separate tanks.
"During the inspection the salvors discovered that two of the fuel tanks appear to have been breached, however it is unclear at this time how much oil from those tanks has been released to the environment.
"Weather conditions have made it impossible for the team to continue the assessment.
"The tug Union Bear remains in the vicinity along with the ETV Herakles to support the operation."