UK: Movement of three ex-Diamond rigs stopped amid disposal concerns

Scottish authorities are preventing the movement of three drilling rigs previously owned by Diamond Offshore and currently stacked at the Port of Cromarty Firth, following concerns about their destination and disposal.

It is understood that Diamond Offshore sold Ocean Nomad, Ocean Princess, and Ocean Vanguard rigs to GMS, a U.S.-based company that transports offshore oil and gas infrastructure to be scrapped in India and Bangladesh.

‎The three rigs predominantly worked in the UK North Sea, have a combined age of 119 years, and are currently cold stacked in the Cromarty Firth.

Earlier this week, the British trade union RMT raised concerns over the sale of these three rigs, claiming that there is existing capacity in Scotland to carry out this decommissioning, recycling, and scrapping work. The union also expressed its concerns over “a continuation of the disgraceful practice of dumping ships and oil and gas infrastructure on South Asian beaches, where workers are regularly killed and injured in highly dangerous and poorly protected conditions.”

On January 12, 2018, Scotland’s environmental regulator, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), issued an immediate direction preventing the movement of rigs located at the Cromarty Firth pending investigation.

John Kenny, Chief Officer, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said: “Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment. This includes ensuring that, where possible resources are reused or recycled or, if not, waste is disposed of appropriately.

“Last week SEPA was made aware of the imminent shipment of three oil rigs from the Cromarty Firth, and concerns about their destination and disposal. SEPA experts in the transfrontier shipment of waste immediately began investigations to establish whether movement of the vessels would be in accordance with European Commission Regulations for waste shipments and issued an immediate direction on 12 January 2018 preventing movement of the vessels.

Kenny continued: “Our investigations are still ongoing, and until we are satisfied that there would be no breach of regulations we have directed that the vessels remain undisturbed. We have notified the Harbour Authority of this decision.”

Offshore Energy Today has reached out to Diamond Offshore seeking its comment on the union’s opposition to the movement of these rigs from Scottish waters. However, we are yet to receive a response from the company. 

Offshore Energy Today has also reached out to the Port of Cromarty Firth seeking further details about the rigs and their current status. 

Chief Executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, Bob Buskie, commented: “We are taking direction from SEPA regarding the onward shipment of these rigs.

“We understand and share people’s frustrations that assets such as these are leaving the Firth to be dismantled in other countries, especially when ports such as ours are licensed and ready to accept these projects. Last month we brought major stakeholders and Scottish Government representatives together for a Parliamentary reception which showcased existing decommissioning capabilities at Scotland’s ports and debated what more can be done to keep this work in Scotland.”

As reported by Offshore Energy Today last year, GMS was also involved in the sale of the FPSO North Sea Producer, previously owned by Maersk and Odebrecht, which was scrapped in Bangladesh.

According to Maersk’s statement from June 2017, the vessel had been sold for redeployment, however, the buyer instead chose to sell it for scrapping in Bangladesh. DanWatch, a Danish independent investigative and research center, claimed that the beach-yard in Chittagong was notorious for exceptionally poor working conditions and environmental pollution, with workers there dismantling giant ships using blow torches, wearing only shorts and flip-flops, and no safety gear.

The previous version of the headline “UK: Movement of three Diamond rigs stopped amid disposal concerns” has been amended as per request of Diamond Offshore who felt the headline had been “a misrepresentation,” as the rigs are no longer owned by the company, which has yet to provide a comment on the current situation with the rigs.     

Offshore Energy Today Staff