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Debut Visit To Gills Harbour

7th July 2013

Photograph of Debut Visit To Gills Harbour

The latest vessel in a Far North fleet servicing marine renewables in 'Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters' made her debut call at Gills Harbour on July 2nd, 2013 and was based there for the next three days.

The motor vessel Ocean Explorer is a recent addition to the 6-strong flotilla of 'marine electricity support vessels' owned and operated by Leask Marine Ltd, of Kirkwall, Orkney Islands.

The company, headed by island businessman Douglas Leask, says that Ocean Explorer 'can offer a safe and fast way of transferring crew and clients to wave and tidal sites' in the area.

The vessel can also be used as a floating base for specialist staff involved in multi-task survey modes, as was the case with Explorer's early July stint when she lay overnight in Gills Harbour's Inner Basin.

Later Guy Newson, MeyGen Ltd's locally-based engineering executive, confirmed that the company had just completed a three-day Inner Sound survey from her.

Mr Newson, who lives at Murkle and is well-known in competitive sailing in the Far North, doubles as MeyGen Ltd's 'Operations & Maintenance Manager and as its H& S Manager and will be co-ordinating its Inner Sound Construction, Design & Management.

Leask Marine's two powerful 'multi-cat' 25-metre long multi-purpose tugs, cable-handlers and marine device deployment and recovery ships C-Salvor and C-Odyssey have both been using Gills this spring and early summer to access the Crown Estate seabed lease-site in the Firth's Inner Sound, just 1 mile off Gills Harbour's entrance between Canisbay and uninhabited Stroma Island.

Two of the other three seabed tidal stream electricity sites leased by the Crown Estate to utilities in the Pentland Firth have also be intermittently visited by vessels operating from Gills, which is the base for Aurora, the small survey vessel operated by the Thurso-based Environmental Research Institute (ERI), part of the University of the Highlands & Islands and skippered by community-owned Gills Harbour Ltd's director William Simpson, who works the family's sheep-farm on Stroma Island.

Also using the sheltered little port at the landward head of Gills Bay this year has been the broadly-similar multicat Orcadia, owned and operated by ScotMarine Ltd of Stromness, Orkney, headed by entrepreneur Barry Johnston. He is also known, through his ScotRenewables Tidal Power Ltd company as the innovator behind the successfully-tested SR 250 floating tidal turbine and the firm has secured international investors to scale this up to a 2 MW floating device.

Ocean Explorer is known as a ProCharter 40, having been constructed in 2007 by the ProCharter Lts company of boat-builders and marine charter operators of Wadebridge, in Cornwall.

The '40' in Explorer's name indicates imperial-unit 'feet'; her 'metric' length is 12.19 metres, with a beam of 4.36 metres, while her draught of just over 1 metre allows her to operate round the clock from Gills, including the Inner Basin.

She can carry a maximum of 14 passengers, while she can also be used for dive support and 'shore to ship transfer' tasks as well as those involving marine measuring device handling.

The vessel is one of a range of workboats and passenger ferries produced in composite materials by the Cornish firm, which claims to be the UK leader in this field.

Her powerful 405 hp Cummins engine give her a range of up to 60 miles from harbour.

Yesterday Bill Mowat, who chairs Gills Harbour Ltd, owned by the 600 electors of Canisbay Parish's North Coast said:- 'The convenience, safety and cost-saving of using Gills Harbour for tidal stream electricity-related tasks in the Pentland Firth has become well-known to the operators of marine renewables support vessels and to Crown Estate lessees of seabed in the Eastern Firth where the tidal streams flow most swiftly. '

'We very much hope to build on that as the Pentland Firth tidal electricity programme rolls out over the coming few years.'


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