The Braer - The Grounding


At 05.19hrs on Tuesday the 5th January 1993, Lerwick coastguard was advised that the tanker Braer, en route from Mongstad in Norway to Quebec in Canada, laden with 84,700 tonnes of Norwegian Gulfaks crude oil, had lost engine power but was in no immediate danger. Her estimated position then was 10 miles south of Sumburgh Head and she was drifting in predominantly south westerly winds of force 10-11. The coastguard alerted rescue helicopters from Sumburgh and RAF Lossiemouth, and made enquiries about the availability of local tugs. At the coastguards suggestion the master agreed that non-essential personnel should be removed from the vessel - 14 of the 34 crew were taken off by the coastguard helicopter from Sumburgh at 08:25.

At 08:50 it was feared that the ship would founder near Horse Island and the experience of the Aegean Sea which burst into flames shortly after grounding lead the coastguard to persuade the captain to abandon ship. However, because of strong NW local currents the Braer moved against the prevailing wind and missed Horse Island drifting towards Quendale Bay.

With the arrival on scene of the anchor handling vessel Star Sirius it was decided to attempt to try and establish a tow. The master and some personnel were taken out by helicopter and were put back on board the vessel. Efforts to attach a heaving line were unsuccessful and at 11:19 the vessel was confirmed as being grounded at Garths Ness, with oil being seen to flow out into the sea from the moment of impact. At this time the 'rescue' team were taken off by the helicopter.


M.V.Braer, shortly after she struck the rocks at Garths Ness
Photo by Shetland Islands Council


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