AN unmanned barge being towed from Orkney to Suffolk was at the centre of major North Sea alert today after drifting close to an offshore wind farm.
The 35 metre barge was being towed from Stromness to Lowestoft when the line to the towing vessel parted in the early hours of this morning off Teesside.
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “Humber Coastguard was first contacted by the towing vessel just before 3am this morning, which reported that the barge was drifting after the tow had parted. The vessel had made a number of attempts to reconnect but was struggling to do so. The wind at the time was a North Westerley force 6 with a three to four metre swell.
“The RNLI Hartlepool all-weather lifeboat was asked to assist and see if they could help reconnect the tow. Another tug vessel was also sent to help. By this time, there was concern the barge was drifting close to the Teeside offshore wind farm but after a number of attempts, the tow was finally reconnected just after 5am.”
Mike Puplett, the watch manager at Humber Coastguard, said: ”This was a tricky operation in difficult weather conditions. Once made aware the barge was drifting towards the windfarm, we wanted to make sure a tow was re-established as quickly as possible. Luckily this was achieved, and no damage was done.
“The barge and towing vessel has now continued on its journey, and is in regular contact with us to update us of their progress.”