BiFab contract hopes dwindle as Belgian firm hotly tipped to win Moray East fabrication deal

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Burntisland Fabrication’s (BiFab) hopes of winning a substantial portion of a huge north-east fabrication contract was hanging in the balance last night as it emerged a Belgian firm is tipped to take the lion share of the deal.

Steel construction company Smulders is understood to be leading the race for the Moray East Offshore Windfarm fabrication contract.

BiFab was already dealt a blow in December as United Arab Emirates-based firm Lamprell was handed the first £160 million fabrication agreement for the project.

And last night the troubled firm also discovered it had lost out to Spanish company Navantia for the assembling of five turbines at the Kincardine Offshore Floating Winfarm near Aberdeen.

Owner DF Barnes confirmed they are in discussions with Smulders in the hope some of work will be farmed out, but no official announcement of the contract win has yet been made.

Canadian firm DF Barnes said BiFab will now look to win as big a portion of the 55 turbine contract as possible.

A spokesman for the firm said: “We are in the final stages of negotiations with the GeoSea/Smulders joint venture to secure a contract to supply some jackets for the Moray East Windfarm.

“This is not guaranteed but we are doing all we can”.

GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith said he was disappointed BiFab could potentially lose out on a crucial deal for the firm.

He said: “The Moray East carve-up between Belgium and the UAE means that Scotland is still fighting for the scraps from its own table when it comes to renewables manufacturing.

“These jackets will be built in the Persian Gulf and then towed to the Moray Firth despite the fact that we have yards in Scotland lying empty and working-class communities crying out for the work; it makes a mockery of GeoSea’s previous assurance that local content would be maximised for the Moray East project.

“It is an absolute scandal and should shake Scotland’s political class out of their complacency.”

The BiFab story

The BiFab saga has been one of numerous ups and downs over the last 18 months.

In December, the fabrication firm was told thsat 100 jobs had been secured at its Arnish yard on the Isle of Lewis.

The contract, understood to be for 100 monopiles at the Moray East Offshore Windfarm, will revitalise work at the firm’s Isle of Lewis site in a multi-million agreement.

The new deal should come as a relief to the island’s workforce following 160 job losses as the firm experienced financial woes last year.

BiFab, which employed 1,400 workers across three sites, was saved from administration by a Scottish Government loan of £15million which ensured it could meet commercial commitments and contract deadlines.

The Fife-based engineering firm had been working on significant renewables contracts in the outer Moray Firth and a multi-million agreement with the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm.

However, the news that the firm could miss out on the full 55 turbine jacket fabrication deal will come as a hammer blow to BiFab.

The deal with Smulders could see the firm win a portion of the contract, but it may not be enough to save BiFab in the longterm.

Bought by Canadian firm DF Barnes last year, the company desperately needs new contracts on the books to ensure its future.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have made a long-term investment in the company, and are in regular contact with BiFab, however we do not participate in operational management decisions.

“It was clear at the point new ownership was secured that conditions would remain challenging for the yards and new contracts would have to be won to secure future work.

“We have confidence that everything possible is being done to secure new contracts and to restore employment both in the Western Isles and Fife.”

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