The Global Energy Group has launched a new bid to gain powers from the Scottish Government to run its Nigg Energy Park facility as a port.
The energy industry services company said there was a “compelling business case” behind its move to to apply to Transport Scotland for a Harbour Empowerment Order (HEO) for the Cromarty Firth site.
But last night the statutory body that controls the firth suggested the move was unnecessary and would not, as Global predicts, bring new jobs and prosperity to the area.
The Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) said the company’s action had come as a “total surprise.”
Global’s application comes less than two years after its bid for a Harbour Revision Order (HRO), which would have given it greater powers, was rejected by Ministers.
It had been strongly opposed by the Invergordon-based CFPA, which runs the Easter Ross town’s harbour and has responsibility for marine activities in the firth’s waters.
The HEO would give Nigg port status and Global increased management powers over the energy park’s quaysides and facilities.
But, unlike the HRO, it would not shift control of the waters by the facility, at the entrance to the firth, from the CFPA to the company.
Global’s communications director, Alastair Kennedy, the bid was as a “natural progression” in its business strategy that could bring “further employment opportunities and wealth into the local economy.”
Mr Kennedy described Nigg as one of the busiest ports in Scotland, following £50million investment in upgrading its facilities.
He added: “Although we see this year continuing to be challenging, our look ahead for 2018 is better as we see the emerging renewables contracts won starting to commence alongside advanced discussions with many leading companies showing real interest in coming to Nigg.
“Given our current position and outlook, our application for port status and provision of certain rights under the HEO is the logical step for us to take at this time.”
Mr Kennedy said the company was in the process of “informing relevant stakeholders” of its plan before going into a formal consultation process.
The CFPA, which has recently been branded as the Port of Cromarty Firth, was unaware of the application when contacted by the Press & Journal yesterday.
The authority’s chief executive, Bob Buskie, said: “Global have not informed us of their plans, so this news has come as a total surprise to us. We are in regular contact with Global and, as the statutory authority responsible for the firth, we would have hoped to have been one of the first to be informed of their plans.
“We do not know the details of their proposal, but Global made a previous attempt to create a private Port in the Port of Cromarty Firth. It was deemed unlawful and rejected by the Scottish Government. We will be writing to them to seek clarification of their objectives.
“An HEO is not required in order for Global to improve, maintain and manage their energy park infrastructure. An HEO does not of itself create jobs or wealth in the local economy.”
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “Transport Scotland officials have held an initial informal discussion with Global Energy Group about a potential Harbour Order and are in receipt of an early draft for comment.
“This is standard practice in relation to any party considering an application under the Harbours Act 1964.”