In the history of Orkney's long association with the sea, the chapter covering the oil years opens in December 1976 with the arrival of the first North Sea crude at a terminal newly built on the island of Flotta.
One hundred and twenty five square miles of sheltered, deep water designated anchorage, an average of a 24 metre draft and a 30 year impeccable safety record, makes Scapa Flow one of the principle locations in Europe for Ship-to-Ship Operations of the transfer of crude oil, fuel oils and LPG.
Just under four years before 1976 the Occidental consortium, led by the American tycoon Dr Armand Hammer, struck oil around 135 miles south east of Orkney. This was the Piper field and its discovery was soon followed by another named Claymore.
Oxy, as the consortium came to be known, decided to bring the crude ashore by pipeline. The landfall would be Flotta - a choice dictated by the surrounding waters of Scapa Flow. In Oxy's view, the harbour that sheltered the Royal Navy through the first and second world wars had more than proved itself as a safe deep-water anchorage for the tankers that would ship oil and gas processed at the terminal to customers around the world.
Today the terminal is operated by Repsol Sinopec Resources (Uk) Ltd and receives oil from more fields than at any other time in its history.
Repsol Sinopec Resources Uk, Flotta Oil Terminal, Flotta, Orkney, KW16 3NP
Vessels must arrive at the port with their propellers fully immersed and trimmed no more than 3 metres by the stern. The berthing and unberthing of ships at Flotta oil terminal is carried out by the harbour's authorised pilots and tugs, and with the assistance of the terminal's mooring masters and workboats.
Berthing at Flotta
Information on the number of tugs available for berthing operations can be found in Towage Services. Tugs' lines are used during berthing and unberthing operations.
Full details of each berthing or unberthing operation will be discussed during the pilot/master exchange of information.
LPG/Crude Oil Jetty
A 'T' shaped jetty capable of handling either crude oil or LPG is situated on the north coast of Flotta (see admiralty charts 35 and 2568). The minimum depth of water alongside is 20.12m and vessels of up to 170,000 tonnes DWT can be handled there.
Ballast water from crude oil tankers can only be discharged ashore. Pumping ballast water directly into Scapa Flow is prohibited.
Single Point Moorings
There are two single point moorings positioned approximately 1½ miles north of Flotta's northern coastline (see admiralty charts 35 and 2568). Both SPMs are not in use at present.
Further information is available in the Talisman Sinopec Energy UK Port Information Booklet.
Bunkers and Fresh Water
There are no facilities for vessels to either bunker or take on fresh water at the terminal. However, these services can be organised while the vessel is anchored in Scapa Flow. Fresh water and gas oil are obtainable locally.
Stores may be taken on board at the terminal but not on the ships main cargo deck during cargo operations and not, in any case, without the loading master's prior consent. There are no restrictions relating to storage while anchored in Scapa Flow.
Mooring at Flotta
There is a limited service for the disposal of garbage at the terminal. Again, this service may be organised while the vessel is at anchor.
A public telephone for outgoing calls is available to vessels moored at the jetty. The telephone only accepts 'phonecards' which are available from the ship's agent.
There is a medic on site at the terminal at all times ready to deal with emergency medical situations.
Scapa Flow has an area of just over125 sq. miles and 1 billion cu.metres of water making it the second largest natural harbour in the world.
Since 1980, 0ver 220 STS transfers have been conducted in Scapa Flow involving over 280 vessels, and incorporating the world’s first commercial transfer of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas).transferring 132,000m³ of LNG. This occurred in 2007 between the vessels Excalibur and Excelsior.
The deep sheltered water of Scapa Flow makes this location perfect for at anchor STS operations with depths of around 35 metres. The Harbour Authority from its head office and VTS information centre at Scapa is operational 24/7/ 365 and has on call pilots, pilot launches and 3x 55 tonne bollard pull ASD tugs.
The Harbour Authority has implemented one of the most robust ballast water management policies in the world in consideration of balancing the commercial expedient of Scapa Flow whilst acknowledging and protecting this environmentally sensitive. area.
An oil transfer license by the MCA was granted in March 2015 to allow STS operations to be conducted in Scapa Flow which incorporates the new ballast water management policy.
All vessels arriving at a Scapa Flow for Ship-to-Ship (STS) transfer operations must arrive with their propeller submerged and a trim no greater than 4.0 meters by the stern. A trim must be maintained to allow the vessel to be manoeuvred without difficulty during their stay.
All transfer operations will comply with the current OCIMF (Oil Companies International Marine Forum) STS Transfer Guide and the approved company STS procedures.