BiFab to compete with debt-heavy Spanish firm for Moray Firth contract

Wind farm jackets at Bifab's Methil Yard
Wind farm jackets at Bifab's Methil Yard

Scottish fabrication firm BiFab will go head-to-head with a debt-ridden Spanish firm for the multi-million Moray East Offshore Windfarm contract, it was revealed yesterday.

Spanish state-owned firm Navantia has made almost £850 million loss since 2005, an average of £70 million each year.

GMB Union yesterday hit out at the situation, comparing BiFab’s position to “fighting for the scraps” to win contracts in its own backyard, as it competes against larger European firms.

Known mainly as a builder of high-tech military and civil ships, Navantia is run under the fiscal control of Spain’s finance ministry.

The state-owned firm has made over £350m government-backed loss since 2015.

GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith said: “Scottish manufacturing should not be fighting for the scraps from its own energy infrastructure projects. We need a level playing field and that means untangling the spaghetti bowl of interest groups funding these projects and their subsidiary organisations.

“We live and work in a global economy, no one is denying this, and we need to collaborate, but our international competitors are commanding the lion’s share of the value from our renewables infrastructure while the UK taxpayer subsidises the sector to the tune of billions of pounds.

Anger has been building from unions that DEME subsidiary, GeoSea – appointed by Moray (East) Offshore Windfarm – could hand that multi-million fabrication contracts for the Moray Firth development to foreign companies.

Much of the anger from GMB Union also centres on the Spanish firm’s ability to absorb debt, and how much of a consideration that is for GeoSea when choosing a contract tender.

A spokesman for GeoSea described the contract tender considerations as “confidential” but added that: “Each of the companies are being evaluated on the basis to meet the requirements set out by our procurement team, whether that be financial, price, quality, health and safety, there are a number of factors.

“Each supplier is perfectly aware of the requirements that need to be met.”

BiFab, which employs around 1,400 workers, was saved from administration late last year by the Scottish Government issuing a loan of £15million to ensure they could meet their commercial commitments and contract deadlines.

Union secretary Gary Smith responded to GeoSea by saying that the current tender situation “cannot continue”.

He added: “It’s a challenge GMB has posed to our politicians; many of whom aren’t short on sound-bites when it comes to pushing the renewables agenda but have been found wanting in fighting for the jobs which communities like those in Fife and Lewis desperately need.”