Work on a multi-million pound project to extend the quayside at Port of Nigg by more than 700ft will start in April, the facility’s owner, Global Energy Group, has said.
Inverness-based Global’s decision to go ahead with the development comes after the Cromarty Firth port recorded its busiest year for vessel visits in 2020.
The firm said that, when complete, the new East Quay will provide more flexibility at Nigg Energy Park to accommodate renewables and oil and gas projects.
Nigg currently has around 3,000ft of quayside, including its dry dock, which is the largest of its kind in Europe.
In 2015, when its 1,200ft South Quay was opened, there were 81 visits by vessels to the site, the majority to pick up equipment for the oil and gas sector, built in Global’s fabrication shops there.
Last year, when the facility was serving as a marshalling and assembly base for the construction of the Moray East offshore wind farm, there were 242 port calls at Nigg.
Global said 60% of these were from the renewables sector and 40% were oil and gas vessels.
Port of Nigg facilities director Rory Gunn said: “Considering the environment in which we were working last year, it was unexpected and also very welcome that, with the volume of traffic at the site, we managed to have such a busy year.
“We’ve got a pretty secure order book for the next couple of years. While oil and gas has taken a bit of a pounding, we certainly want to continue to support that side of the industry, as well as renewables.
“The horizon of work we have, especially with the ScotWind leasing round, provides reassurance for us as a port operator that there’s a pipeline of work that can feed us for the next few years.”
He added: “Work on the quay extension will be starting in April and we are looking to finish it by the spring of 2022.
“That will give us an additional 225m (nearly 740ft) of quay. When we did the south quay that was 370m (1,214ft), so it’s two-thirds of the size again.
“What that buys us is the flexibility to accommodate two different renewables projects at the same time.
“It allows us to take the dock dry, if that opportunity came up, without giving up the quay space we require in there at the moment. It just gives us that extra flexibility and allows us to accommodate more opportunities.”
There were 174 port calls at Nigg in 2018 and 154 the following year. During that period the facility was used as a staging post for the development of the Beatrice offshore wind farm.
Planning permission for the latest quay development was granted by Highland Council in 2019.
During the 1970s, Nigg yard, at the entrance to the Cromarty Firth, had around 5,000 workers building huge platform structures for the emerging North Sea oil and gas industry.
Energy industry service firm Global, headed by Highland businessman Roy MacGregor, acquired the then virtually derelict site from US company KBR in 2011 and announced its intention to redevelop it as a “multi-user, multi-sector” facility.
Last October, plans by the group to build the “UK’s largest offshore wind fabrication facility” at Nigg Energy Park emerged.
Manufacturing steel towers, jackets and foundations for renewables schemes, it was estimated the £100 million factory would directly create 150 new jobs and another 300 in the supply chain.