Local News for Friday 8th September 2017

Transocean Winner report
The Marine Accident Investigation Bureau has released their report into the grounding of the oil drilling platform Transocean Winner on Dalmore in Lewis last summer. They conclude that poor weather information, a worn tow line and inadequate assessment of the conditions by the master of the towing vessel all contributed to the incident. MAIB said that the tug ALP Forward was incapable of controlling the tow in the high winds and seas experienced. Voyage planning did not consider the effect of high winds on Transocean Winner and the master’s attempts to maintain control of the tow placed strain on a tow line which was already in poor condition. After the tug lost the tow, the Stornoway-based UK Coastguard investigated alternative tugs and called the emergency towing vessel Herakles, then at Kirkwall in Orkney some 12 hours from Lewis. It was unable to arrive at the accident site before Transocean Winner grounded, but MAIB said that it was very unlikely that it would, in any case, have been able to provide any practical assistance. MAIB said: “The effect of the wind on Transocean Winner led to ALP Forward being incapable of controlling the wind and tow in the severe weather conditions. The planning of a passage so close to the coast left little sea room for the tug and tow to drift. When ALP Forward lost control of the tug and tow, it was very likely that Transocean Winner would have grounded even if the tow line had not parted. The tow line was in a generally poor condition, (but) it is quite possible that a new tow line would have also parted under the same circumstances and conditions”.

Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said that the report showed up a “catalogue of things to be concerned about” and reiterated calls for the return of an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) to be permanently based in the Western Isles. He said: “Anyone reading this thorough investigation will be left troubled. Although, in the case of the Transocean Winner, no lives were lost and there was no significant environmental damage, the incident served to point to the huge danger the island economy and environment would face, if ever a vessel carrying a large amount of hazardous cargo found herself in a similar position. It is clear that the west coast of Scotland remains at risk of future incidents occurring. Instead of seeing this incident as a wakeup call, the UK Government has so far been deaf to the collective calls of the industry, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Highlands and Islands MSPs and MPs for a second ETV based in the Western Isles. I hope this report now makes the UK Government reconsider their position.”

Shop closures eat into community hearts
Two shops are to close for good tomorrow, each leaving a gap in their respective communities. The 100-year-old Stornoway business Murdo Maclean and Son will close the door on the oldest business in the town at 5pm on Saturday, after failing to find a buyer. Current owner John Maclean is the fourth generation of his family to run the business, and confessed that ‘a miracle’ would now be needed to save the prominent town-centre business. Meanwhile in Scalpay the doors will also close tomorrow on Scalpay Community Shop, set up as a community-run enterprise in 2012. North Harbour Bistro, which operates from within the shop premises, will remain in business.

Band’s blow after van break-in
Two Stornoway musicians are reeling from the loss of valuable performance equipment after the van belonging to Highlands and Islands band Ho-Ro was broken into and set alight in Glasgow this week. Keyboard player Keith Morrison, who also runs Wee Studio recording and production businesses in Stornoway and Benbecula, and drummer David Calum (DC) Macmillan, a well-known local performer, are members of Ho-Ro, who appeared on the mainstage at this year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival. They had left instruments and other equipment in Glasgow following a busy season of international touring. Ho-Ro’s supporters have set up a crowdfunding page to help the six-piece traditional band rebuild. A spokesman for Ho-Ro said: “We have worked very hard to get to where we are at the moment. We saved up as much as we could to buy the van and good equipment so that we could sound as good as possible. Our musical instruments that were in the van were priceless and are now lost now thanks to a desperate criminal act.” The Crowdfunding appeal aims to raise £10,000 and meanwhile other bands, including Trail West, are helping out by lending gear to allow Ho-Ro to continue performing. You can support the band by following the link on our Facebook page. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/helpingho-ro/

Vehicle break-ins
Police in the Western Isles are appealing for information after two opportunistic thefts from vehicles in Stornoway between 8pm on Saturday, September 2 and 8am on Sunday, September 3rd. Personal items taken from a car parked on Goathill Road were recovered soon after in the local area. In a second incident items were removed from a van parked on Keith Street. Some low value personal items have yet to be recovered. Sergeant Jane MacKenzie said: "We are appealing to anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in these streets on the night in question to contact us as soon as possible. I would also take the opportunity to remind people to make sure their property and vehicles are secure at all times to deter opportunist thefts.” Information can be passed to police in Stornoway by calling 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

SRAC invitational
Stornoway Running and Athletics Club welcome athletes from clubs in Giffnock North, Central and Livingstone tomorrow, with a combined total of 140/150 athletes and pupils, plus about 50 from the Uist club. The event’s a Track and Field Invitational competition, with events including high jump, long jump, running and throwing events. A club spokesman said: “This is a fantastic event and one which SRAC are proud to have initiated and host.”

Football season ends
The island football season is drawing to a close, with a semi-final match tonight in the Lewis Moldova Cup between Ness and Stornoway United at Fivepenny. Tomorrow sees the Co-Op cup final at Goathill between Westside and Carloway. Both kick-offs are at 6pm. The final match of the season is the Moldova Cup final on September 23rd, kick-off 5pm.