Burntisland oil rig: What is the huge boat in the Forth and what is it doing?

Residents of Burntisland woke this morning to see an new arrival off the coast of Fife, as giant oil rig had drawn up alongside the gigantic ship which arrived yesterday.

By Scott McCartney
Friday, 28th May 2021, 4:17 pm
The oil rig arrived this morning to join the GPO Sapphire.
The oil rig arrived this morning to join the GPO Sapphire.

With a hive of activity just off Burntisland, here’s what we know about what’s going on.

Which rig and boat are currently out there?

Yesterday morning the GPO Sapphire, which is a heavy lifting ship, arrived the area, with the oil rig Maersk Gallant being towed round from the port of Dundee and sitting off East Fife

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This morning the Gallant’s three huge towers were clearly visible as it pulled into Burntisland alongside the Sapphire.

There are also a number of smaller tugs and the AHTV Maersk Lancer – a special kind of tug designed to handle the oil rig’s anchor and tow it to wherever is required.

Why are they there?

The oil rig is set to be transported elsewhere for use, which requires something greater than an orbit of tugs in order to get it to wherever in the world it needs to be.

The oil rig prepares to board the Sapphire.

How do you lift an oil rig?

The Sapphire is a fascinating piece of engineering. The boat is actually semi-submersible and will sink in the water to let the oil rig get pulled on by a number of tugs.

It will then refloat up underneath the rig before it carries it to it’s next destination, which is likely to be much further afield than the UK.

Does this happen often?

The oil rig and boat pictured from Burntisland Links

It is a semi regular occurrence in the Firth of Forth, and in June we’ll see the same thing in reverse, with another rig being floated in, before it is then towed back to Methil.

Is it safe?

Yes. During the load out operation an exclusion zone exists for all marine craft within the charted boundary of the anchorage.