The Matador 3 with Bakkafrost Scotland's salvaged feed barge in Reraig Bay, Loch Carron.

Salvaged feed barge will be moved ‘as soon as possible’

Safety protocol has been paramount says Bakkafrost Scotland after concerned crane vessel master left barge in loch


A salvaged feed barge that was temporarily anchored in Loch Carron because of bad weather will be moved as soon as possible, owner Bakkafrost Scotland has said.

The concrete SeaMate barge was being transported to a salvage site on Scotland’s west coast by the crane barge Matador 3 last month when the vessel’s skipper decided to seek shelter and offload his cargo.

In a reply to a query by anti-salmon farming campaigner Don Staniford, the Scottish Government said the decision to deposit the feed barge in Reraig Bay, Loch Carron, was made “as an act of force majeure by the Master of the crane barge”.

Safety of vessel

“The Master had concerns for the safety of his vessel if it encountered bad weather whilst carrying the fish farm barge. Several options as to where the fish farm barge could be deposited with least environmental risk were considered,” wrote the government.

“The site in Loch Reraig lies outside the Marine Protected Area and a ROV survey confirmed a clean sandy bottom. The barge was deposited and a quaternary anchor system attached to ensure that it cannot move in bad weather. A guardship is in place.”

The feed barge sank at Bakkafrost Scotland’s Portree site off Skye during Storm Arwen in November 2021. Initial work to raise the barge was halted when it was discovered that decomposition of feed had generated hydrogen sulphide, the “rotten egg” smelling gas that can explode when heated and is toxic if inhaled in high concentrations.

Gas flushing

“Bakkafrost have confirmed that gas flushing prior to lifting and continued ventilation have reduced explosive risk and toxic risk to the public to zero and no exclusion zone is therefore necessary,” the government told Staniford in its response on Monday.

“Whilst two loads of food/water have been removed for safe disposal a new vacuum system is required to remove the remaining cargo. It is expected that this removal will be completed in January when the barge will be inspected and certified as seaworthy. It will then be removed from the site.”

The decision to moor the barge in Reraig Bay upset some locals.

'No consultation'

“It is unfortunate that the company did not undertake any consultation before they parked it here,” Lochcarron Community Council chair Helen Murchison told the West Highland Free Press last week. “The community would appreciate knowing what the future plans are and when the barge will be moving on.”

A Bakkafrost Scotland spokesperson told Fish Farming Expert: “Safety protocol has been paramount throughout this complex process, and we have been in regular consultation with leading international specialists to ensure the required procedures and monitoring are in place. We have monitors in place on the site and we are satisfied that the site is not dangerous.

“Unfortunately, the Festive holiday period has meant there was a break in work on the barge, however weather permitting, our team plan to be on site as soon as possible to commence the final stages of the recovery of the barge.”