An offshore engineering giant will create scores of new jobs in the Highlands after winning two multimillion-pound contracts.
Subsea 7 wants to recruit 150 workers for its pipeline fabrication yard near Wick after landing orders worth £145million from BP and Apache to build, deliver and commission connections to North Sea platforms.
The hunt for workers has already started and management are confident they can secure follow-up contracts to provide long-term employment at their premises at Wester.
Work had dried up during the recession and the payroll dwindled to just 13.
The new jobs are coming on-stream just as bosses at Dounreay are looking for volunteers to help shed 180 posts in the latest phase of the wind-down of the atomic plant.
Yesterday’s good news for Wester was welcomed by council and business leaders in Caithness.
Subsea 7, one of the world’s biggest offshore oil service companies, is an acknowledged market leader in “seabed flowline bundles” – which connect offshore installations. Sixty-one have been floated out from Wester over the past 30 years.
One £93million contract is for BP, to connect its Arundel and Kinnoull developments to the Andrew platform.
The other contract is a £52million order from Apache to connect three new wells in the Bacchus field to the Forties Alpha platform.
The yard has been in the doldrums for five years but Willie Watt, Subsea 7’s construction manager at Wester, is now relishing the challenge of the two new contracts and is confident of winning follow-on orders.
Workers being sought include welders, engineers, plant operators and service staff.
Mr Watt said: “From the level of inquiries and CVs we’ve already received and the number of former employees who have said they are keen to come back, we’re confident we’ll cover all the bases.
“Our experience on previous contracts is that 90% of our labour is sourced from Caithness.”
He added: “Over the past five years, it has been very cyclical and, like everybody else in the recession, we’ve had to reduce our numbers, but we’re now back with a bang.”
The design team for the firm’s North Sea operations is based in Aberdeen.
David Flear, Highland Council’s Caithness civic head, said: “This is really good news, particularly at a time when a number of companies here are in a downturn.
“I know they have worked really hard to stay in the county during some really difficult times.”
Caithness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Trudy Morris said: “It’s fantastic news. I’m also very confident that a big percentage of new jobs will go to local people.”