AMBITIOUS plans to expand a Highland port over the next three years will create nearly 850 jobs, a new report has revealed.
Another 200 jobs are expected to be generated during construction and the project is predicted to bring at least £23.6million into the area’s economy.
The service base at Invergordon is now undergoing major development in phases. Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) chief executive and harbourmaster Captain Ken Gray said phase one – which was completed in 2010 at a cost of £1million – had created 50 jobs.
He said the new posts would support the Highland economy in the long term.
“The port currently supports between 600 and 1,000 jobs and the additional jobs will be high-quality, long-term jobs that will really benefit the community,” Mr Gray said. “The development plans will bring significant economic regeneration to the region.
“The most important thing for us is the economic regeneration of the Cromarty Firth, Invergordon and the Highlands and we can’t achieve this unless we develop.”
Development of the port authority land known as Linear Park is phase two of the development.
It is currently being cleared and construction is due to start on-site in July.
This strip of land will be used to provide additional fabrication and storage facilities at a cost of about £1.25million.
It is expected this phase – which it is hoped will be fully operational by the end of November – will provide 50 full-time jobs once it is up and running and 30 jobs during construction.
Phase three, which will cost about £20million, involves reclaiming seven acres of land from the sea to provide a paved storage area and an additional berth.
Work on this phase is due to start at the end of 2013 or early in 2014 and be operational early in 2015.
It is hoped this will enable the port to attract work from Scottish and Southern Energy and EDP Renewables, developers of the Beatrice and Moray windfarms, when they start operations in 2015.
Figures prepared for the port authority by an external economist have shown that, once operational, phase three should create 444 direct jobs and 347 indirect jobs.
Capt Gray said they had carried out preliminary work for phase three and would be starting on the environmental-impact study in the next few weeks. They are also looking for funding for the project.
He said the board acknowledged that phase three would have a significant effect on the residents of Invergordon.
“We have started raising awareness of this project and have always intended to enter into further community briefing sessions,” he said.
“We want to work with the community for the creation of employment and future benefits for Invergordon.”
Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol said: “We are very supportive of CFPA’s development plans and very pleased that it is happening now.
“We think it is really important to the whole of the Highland economy and the Inner Moray Firth has the potential to secure and support a significant number of well-paid jobs going forward into the future.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart said new growth was important for the Highland economy in the current financial conditions.
He said: “We particularly welcome the possibility of new apprenticeships and involving young people in the labour market as this is a vitally important growth area for our economy.
“This is a good-news story for the Highlands and I hope the extra jobs will have a multiplier effect and lead to other jobs in the service industries.”
Cromarty Firth councillor Martin Rattray said he was not happy with the way the development had been handled.
He said: “I welcome development and the creation of jobs, but not at any cost. I feel the spirit of permitted development rights has been abused and would prefer to see this development going through the full planning process.”