UK’s longest-serving nuclear vessel makes her final journey

Oceanic Pintail

Oceanic Pintail is making its final voyage after 33 years of impeccable service to the UK’s nuclear industry.

The world-class cargo vessel has enjoyed a stellar career at sea, with an unparalleled safety record, and will now be decommissioned in Scotland.

It set sail from Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, for the final time last week, and 98% of the 3,865-tonne vessel will now be recycled by Leith firm Dales Marine Services.

It was of paramount importance to INS that firms bidding to carry out the challenging decommissioning work be able to hit such a unique environmental target.

Peter Buchan, Operations Director for INS, said: “Oceanic Pintail has served the nuclear industry and the UK with distinction. With a fantastic safety record since she first sailed in 1987, Pintail has been involved in some incredibly important projects, including being the first vessel to ship MOX fuel from Europe to Japan in 1999 and the recently completed Dounreay Exotics Consolidation Programme.

“It was crucial to us that the winning bidder was able to do so in safe and environmentally-friendly way. We set out rigorous standards, which had to be met, including a target that 98% of the vessel being recycled.

“I am delighted Pintail will remain in the UK, as Scottish firm Dales Marine Services was the successful applicant. Everyone who has sailed on Pintail will miss her.”

INS’s commitment to ensuring 98% of Pintail is recycled is part of a major focus for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which this year has set a priority to identify ways to reduce and map the industry’s carbon footprint.

David Peattie, Chief Executive of the NDA and Chairman of PNTL, who has sailed on Pintail during one of its nuclear transfers, added: “Oceanic Pintail has given the nuclear industry many years of great service and with an unwavering safety record throughout.  Seeking to recycle 98% of this vessel will see her playing an important part in our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and is a fitting final mission.”

Pintail has been a firm fixture in the waters off Barrow-in-Furness since arriving in the UK from Japan in 1987.

It has been the flagship vessel in UK’s nuclear fleet and offered customers across the world a bespoke solution to their specialist transport challenges.

With a track record of safely carrying MOX and high-level radioactive waste, Pintail was available for the most complex of nuclear transport projects.

PNTL Captain Aidan Howlett was on board the PNTL vessel Pacific Grebe as it passed Pintail being towed to Leith. It was a poignant moment for him having been 3rd Officer on board the vessel during its maiden voyage in 1987, and Master on its final cargo voyage to Nordenham, Germany, in September 2019.

Captain Howlett said: “All crew mustered on deck to witness Pintail passing by, and we sounded our whistle to recognise the distinguished service the vessel has given to PNTL and the UK over the last 33 years.”

Pintail is an INF3-class vessel – the highest level of the International Maritime Organization’s code which regulates shipments by sea of packaged irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high-level radioactive wastes.

INS still runs PNTL’s fleet of specialist nuclear vessels – Pacifics Grebe, Egret and Heron – with shipments now back under way for the first time since the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic earlier this year.