A GROUP of Scottish businesses is in negotiations with the owners of the mothballed Nigg fabrication yard as part of plans to reopen the facility and create thousands of jobs.
Five businesses from the energy sector, which employ around 500 people in the Highlands alone, have revealed plans to form a non-profit body to take over the 165-acre yard from American industry giant KBR at a nominal fee.
Yesterday Dennis Winpenny, managing director of Intech Power, confirmed that they have been in “positive” discussions with KBR about acquiring the yard to develop new energy-sector opportunities.
Port Services Group, Nicholson Engineering Services, Oilscaff and GQ Training are also part of a sub-group of the Cromarty Firth Port Users Association (CFPUA) which has produced the radical plan to reopen the yard.
Mr Winpenny said his company had tendered for a lucrative contract to build equipment for a large European energy company which has specifically requested that, if Intech won the bid, it would be built in Scotland, and preferably at the Nigg yard.
“That could lead to 10 years work and 300 to 400 jobs,” said Mr Winpenny.
“It’s a tragedy and it’s devastating that for eight years that yard has been lying empty.”
Their plan is that the non-profit body takes over the yard while the businesses themselves develop its operations. These would include rig maintenance, upgrades and survey work in one of Europe’s largest dry docks.
There could also be manufacture and fabrication of subsea pipelines, offshore wind and marine energy structures, the decommissioning of offshore oil and gas structures and provision of storage, and the handling and supply base facilities and services.
The yard revival group has also been in preliminary discussions with Highland Council members and senior staff, and politicians including the area’s MP, John Thurso, and MSP Jamie Stone.
Mr Thurso, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, welcomed the proposal, described the yard as a “vital asset” and said: “Leaving it mothballed must not be an option.”
He added: “This proposal by a group of well-established local companies who have extensive experience in this kind of operation is imaginative and well-conceived and, if successful, will be a significant boost to quality employment in Easter Ross. I will therefore assist in any way I can in helping to turn this sound concept into reality.”
Previous approaches to get the yard back into use have been stalled by issues including the site’s shared ownership between KBR and the Wakelyn Trust.
In a statement, KBR’s director of communications, Heather Browne, said: “KBR has been actively seeking a viable and sustainable opportunity for the use of its Nigg Yard. Though the facility is uniquely qualified and positioned to support fabrication and the marine industry, KBR has not been successful in its efforts.
“The company will continue to seek alternatives for redeploying the Nigg yard, including the prospective sale of the facility.”