Angus port eyeing growth in oil clients

MONTROSE Port Authority has its eye on more oil and gas-related business, chief executive John Paterson said yesterday.

He said plans for new deepwater berths at the harbour could help to attract more ships serving the North Sea and distant oil fields, and spark an increase in general cargo.

Mr Paterson was not unduly concerned about the future prospects for paper and pulp shipments through Montrose, saying a downturn in the paper industry had probably bottomed out.

The port’s bosses are setting aside about £5million for the new berths on the south quay. Mr Paterson said work could start in spring and would last about a year, although the project still requires planning consent.

More than £440,000 was invested in refurbishment and corrosion protection at the port in the year to May 31, resulting in an annual pre-tax loss of £93,236, compared with a deficit of £60,669 in 2006-07. Turnover rose to £2.64million in the latest period, against £2.25million previously. Mr Paterson said figures for the first half of its current trading year would show a return to bottom-line profitability.

Pulp imports destined for Scotland’s paper mills account for about 15% of the port’s business.

Paper-makers have been hit hard by an oversupply in western Europe plus fast-rising input costs.

Just last month, International Paper (IP) put hundreds of north-east jobs in jeopardy after it said its mill at Inverurie was no longer viable. Agriculture and timber importers and exporters have also experienced changing circumstances, but Mr Paterson said Montrose was maintaining its market share of business in these areas as well as paper and pulp.

He said demand for marine services and space in port authority properties was robust, particularly from oil-related customers. The port employs 25 people and has about 400 ships using its facilities and services each year. Oil and gas-related business accounts for about 50% of the tonnage of visiting ships.