The area around Shetland has long been used by Russian factory ships (otherwise known as Klondykers) anchoring offshore for many weeks to provide the Russian fishing fleet with a base close to the fishing grounds to offload their fish for processing allowing them to return to the fishing grounds more quickly than if they were to return to their home port. The steel motor vessel Pionersk was one of these huge ships. Launched from the yard of Stocznia Gdanska Lenina, Gdasnk she measured 165.5 m x 21.33 m x 8.1 m and weighed 12639 gross tons. She had a 5 cylinder oil engine constructed by Burmeister and Wain. She was owned by Zapbrya of the USSR.
She anchored off Bressay in the early winter of 1994 and waited for the fishing vessels to arrive. On 30th October a force 10 gale swept across the islands causing the mooring lines of the ship to snap and she drifted helplessly towards the shore. She crashed ashore at on the Ness of Trebister a few miles south of Lerwick and stuck fast.
The Lerwick lifeboat was launched and arrived on the scene shortly afterwards and succeeded in taking off some of the crew. She was joined by a rescue helicopter and over the next three and a half hours all 155 crew aboard the Russian ship were brought safely ashore. The resulting pollution from the oil tanks of the ship caused a huge furore on the islands with demands for greater precautions against these ships which often appeared to be in poor condition. Indeed an inspection of the Pionersk only a few months earlier had revealed a number of serious defects although it does not appear that any of the identified defects contributed to the loss of the ship.
The wreck lay ashore visible for nearly three months before she broke up completely in a violent storm on 18th January 1995. The remains of the Pionersk lie on position 60° 07.201’N, 001° 10.648’W (WGS84) off the Ness of Trebister. The wreckage cascades down a rocky seabed to around 20 metres with the bow breaking the surface at low tide. The most in tact section of the wreck is the stern which lies at the deepest extent to the site.