The 700th rig to visit the Cromarty Firth has been welcomed as a further sign of activity picking up in the North Sea oil and gas sector.
The huge 35,500-tonne West Phoenix semi-submersible is expected to spend around two months in the east Highland inlet undergoing repairs before being used in exploration drilling on the UK and Norwegian continental shelves.
Earlier this year, the Invergordon-based Port of Cromarty Firth (PCF), which controls the waters, marked the 40th anniversary of the first rig arriving in the area, which has since become established as one of Europe’s leading locations for inspection, repair and maintenance projects.
The waters have also been used to stack rigs that had no work during the recent North Sea oil and gas downturn.
PCF general manager Calum Slater said: “Welcoming our 700th rig is a tremendous landmark. It is testament to the skills of the people who work in the firth and the service they have provided to rig owners for decades.
“The fact that our 700th visit is for repair work rather than storage highlights the positive signs we are seeing from the North Sea.
“We expect more rigs to leave the firth this year and return to work, which is good news for the industry and the people working within it.”
There are currently nine rigs in the firth, compared to 15 in February.
It is understood around four are having work carried out on them, with the remainder stacked.