A redeveloped Highland port is aiming to use a stricken cargo ship to showcase its credentials for oil and gas decommissioning.
An emergency was declared in March when the Norwegian-owned MV Kaami ran aground in the Minch, a body of water in Scotland’s north-west coast, on a journey from Ireland to Sweden.
The eight Russian crew members were airlifted to safety but a salvage team had to be deployed to prevent pollution and, after deeming the ship beyond repair, Kishorn Port was selected as the site to break it apart.
The opportunity “came out of the blue” according to director Colin Ortlepp, but it acts as a good chance to show what the redeveloped port can do as it aspires to be a main decommissioning base for North Sea installations.
Aberdeen-based John Lawrie Metals has been subcontracted to break apart the ship for recycling, and the team is expected to arrive at Kishorn for the work within the next week.
Mr Ortlepp said: “The vessel was declared a constructive loss, essentially non-repairable. The insurers then looked around for a place of safety to take her and Kishorn Port was the closest port to do that.
“This vessel has been an opportunity that has come along really out of the blue but we have wider aspirations for decommissioning oil and gas structures such as FPSOs, topsides, and jackets.”
Insurers on behalf of Norwegian firm Misje Bulk AS, which owns the vessel, selected Kishorn Port Limited (KPL) for the job, which has involved opening one of the drydock’s 13,000 tonne gates for the first time.
Having been a construction site during the 1970s oil boom, the drydock lay largely dormant for 20 years before KPL, a joint venture between Ferguson Transport and quarry firm Leiths, secured permission for redevelopment in 2013.
It has also received backing from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government’s decommissioning challenge fund.
Ferguson has already been involved in recovering and storing the cargo of the vessel, currently in warehouses at Kishorn.
Aside from decommissioning, KPL hopes the port can be used as a construction sight for wind turbine bases, as well as a facility for mooring and refurbishing oil rigs.
That latter ambition came to fruition in January last year when the Ocean GreatWhite, the world’s largest semi-submersible rig, arrived at the port.
Once the MV Kaami is completed, Mr Ortlepp is hopeful of more decom work on the horizon as oil and gas assets reach the end of their production lives.
He added: “We are seeing interest across the piece. Decommissioning, laying up and various other uses.
“So there is definite interest in it, not just speculative passing interest.”