Radioactive ship drifting off Scottish coast forces oil platform evacuation

The Parida cut its engines in the Moray Firth when a fire started on board

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Dozens of people had to be evacuated from an oil platform overnight as a radioactive ship drifted off the Scottish coast.

A fire in one of the Parida’s funnels forced the cargo ship to cut its engines in the North Sea on Tuesday evening.

The blaze was extinguished with no injuries to the 15 people on board, the coastguard said, and the crew attempted to put down its anchors to stop being forced nearer land by rough seas.

As the Parida began drifting towards the Beatrice oil platform in the Moray Firth, it was shut down and evacuated as a precaution, Shetland Coastguard said.

The incident, around 20 nautical miles south-west of Wick, started at 7pm.

Some 52 people were lifted off the platform by rescue helicopters from RAF Lossiemouth and the Scottish coastguard

The 300ft Parida, which sails under a Danish flag, was being towed by a tug towards Inverness for inspection and repairs on Wednesday morning.

It is owned by Belgian authorities and was transporting waste back to Belgium after collecting it from Dounreay nuclear plant in Caithness, where it had been reprocessed.

A spokesperson from the plant said it is the lowest form of waste and had been cemented in 500 litre drums.

"Everything is still secure," he added. "The nature of the cargo is it is safe and the cargo is not damaged. There is no danger to the crew."

Shetland Coastguard were alerted to the incident, around 20 miles south east of Wick, at about 8pm last night.

Ithaca Energy hoped to return its staff to the platform in the Beatrice oil field later on Wednesday.

Because the ship was drifting overnight towards our platform we did what is standard procedure and shut the platform down and evacuated all personnel to shore, and that worked very safely and efficiently," a spokesperson said.

"We are going to focus on getting our people back out to the platform today and do what we need to start production again."

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, said ministers were “closely monitoring the incident”.

“A Scottish Government Resilience meeting has taken place with key partners including Police Scotland and the Maritime Coastguard Agency, which is coordinating an operation to stabilise the vessel and ensure it is safely recovered to harbour,” he added.

“Ministers have been briefed and Scottish Government officials are engaging closely with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the UK Government and key partners to ensure appropriate response arrangements are in place.”

Additional reporting by agencies