Port of Aberdeen bosses have hailed progress on the UK’s biggest marine infrastructure project.
And chief executive Bob Sanguinetti said road access to the new South Harbour should also be ship-shape by the time the facility becomes fully operational in the first quarter of 2023.
Greyhope Road is still partially closed – affecting the stretch between Girdleness Lighthouse and St Fittick’s park – and the main entrance to South Harbour currently resembles a large building site.
Mr Sanguinetti acknowledged there is still much work to do.
But he is not unduly concerned about the local road infrastructure not being ready to handle the traffic demands of a fully working harbour.
These include an expected influx of cruise ship passengers all eager to explore the north-east and its many attractions.
The expectation is that Greyhope Road will be back to normal soon after the closed stretch is handed back to the city council early next year.
Port of Aberdeen’s mammoth project has overrun its original timetable, with Covid and supply chain issues causing delays.
But construction work is now more than 90% complete.
And in excess of 60% of the South Harbour development is operational, bosses said yesterday. This figure is expected to increase to around 80% by the end of the year.
This is an exciting time at South Harbour as it has now moved from being largely a construction project to an operational harbour.”
Balmoral Quay is forecast to follow in Q2 2023, making Aberdeen the largest berthage port in Scotland.
South Harbour is expected to welcome its first cruise ship next May, tapping into a fast-growing global market.
2023 looking good for cruise ships
Mr Sanguinetti said there were already “17 or 18” cruise ships pencilled in for next year.
These are likely to bring many thousands of visitors into Aberdeen, delivering valuable tourism revenue for the north-east economy.
Offshore wind farms are also predicted to deliver new business for the port as a raft of ScotWind projects – more than half of them off the north-east coast – ramp up.
Yesterday’s 60% operational milestone celebration coincided with a visit by Subsea 7’s huge Seaway Phoenix vessel, which is working on the Seagreen offshore wind farm.
Mr Sanguinetti said he expected to see many more ships like it paying a visit in years to come as offshore wind energy developments ramp up in the North Sea.
He hailed the progress to date at South Harbour as a “significant achievement” which the north-east ought to be proud of.
Expansion of the near-900-year-old port- the oldest existing business in the UK – will be “transformational”, he said.
It will deliver benefits not just for the recently rebranded port and Aberdeen, but for the whole region, he added.
Scottish green freeport status is still up in the air for bid partners Aberdeen and Peterhead, with the UK Government yet to choose two among five hopeful consortia.
This would be an0ther feather in the cap for the Granite City and Mr Sanguinetti said the north-east had a “compelling case”.
More than 25 vessels have berthed at South Harbour during a “soft start” to operations which started in July.
A handover from construction to operations for the Dunnottar, Crathes and Castlegate East quays was completed this week.
Key shift for South Harbour
Port of Aberdeen’s chief executive said: “I’m delighted with the continued progress of our port expansion.
“This is an exciting time at South Harbour as it has now moved from being largely a construction project to an operational harbour.
“We look forward to welcoming new and existing customers to the port, while we complete the safe and efficient construction of the project.”
He added: “South Harbour will be at the heart of the development and expansion of high potential sectors, including offshore wind, green hydrogen and decommissioning.
“When we reach the full potential of our expanded port, it will bolster the regional and national economies by £2.4 billion GVA (gross value added) and support 17,500 jobs both local to the port and further afield.”
Once complete, the expansion will add nearly a mile of deepwater berthage and accommodate ships up to 985ft long.
Illustration of the South Harbour layout. Supplied by Port of Aberdeen
The development suffered a major blow during 2020 when lead contractor Dragados UK pulled out slightly more than two-thirds of the way through.
It meant the trust port’s bosses had to find firms to complete the final 30%.
The initial £350m project has since ballooned to £400m.
Engineering and project director Keith Young has seen the development through from almost the start, playing a key role in feasibility studies nearly 10 years ago.
“I am very fortunate to have come into it at an early stage,” Mr Young said, adding: “This will have a massive impact on the city and shire.
“We are building this not just for the next two or five years but for the long-term”.