Around 200 people were tonight being airlifted from an offshore barge which broke loose from its tow lines amid rough waters in the North Sea.
The pipelaying barge, operated by Stolt Offshore, had 265 workers on board when it came loose from two tug ships about 170 miles north east of Aberdeen this morning.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which was alerted to the situation, said the 170-metre semi-submersible barge had since drifted into Norwegian waters.
An Aberdeen Coastguard helicopter was flown to the scene but was not asked to provide any assistance.
Anders Bang-Andersen, chief information officer at the rescue co-ordination centre in Stavanger, said tonight the vessel was about 100 miles west of the city of Haugesund.
He said two tugs had managed to get tow lines on board and the vessel was being kept clear of any offshore platforms.
Around a dozen rescue and civilian helicopters had begun removing non-essential workers, Mr Bang-Andersen said.
He added: “The two tugs are now trying to get control over the drifting of the vessel.
“There is no immediate danger but we are in the process of evacuating approximately 200 people as a safety precaution.
“They are being flown off to nearby platforms.”
Stolt Offshore said tonight that the barge had been en-route to Bergen when the tow lines were lost.
A spokeswoman added: “Evacuation of non-essential personnel will continue as a matter of prudence, leaving a crew on board to resume the tow.”