Belgian steel manufacturer Smulders has revealed that work for a Moray Firth wind project has created hundreds of jobs at its UK site.
The firm, who agreed a £217 million contract to fabricate 55 jackets for the Moray East Offshore Wind Farm project in March, said the increased work would see a doubling of its workforce at its Wallsend facility in Newcastle.
Smulders said the work had created more than 200 jobs at the site since March.
It added that as welding activities ramp up it would look to double that number to 400 by the end of 2019 running into the start of 2020.
Smulders said that some of the initial work will be done in Belgium but confirmed that the lionshare of the contract is being undertaken in the UK.
It plans to have the first completed jacket “standing proud” by September 2019 and to have the full and completed jackets by early 2020.
The firm said it had 3000 tonnes of primary steel ready at the site and that it will take bi-weekly deliveries of the same amount until the contract is complete.
Asked how the contract was progressing, Smulders director of projects Tom Coosemans said: “With every project there is initial teething problems but they are manageable.
“The goods have to go through a learning curve but we are right on track and where we need to be.
“What we aim for is continuity.”
The planned production rate at the Wallsend site is 1.5 jackets per week.
Mr Coosemans added: “We’re extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last three years.
“We are very keen to continue to continue in the market in the near future but there are challenges ahead.
“The market could go the way of UK shipbuilding and oil and gas an be done elsewhere cheaper, when the UK really needs and can do this type of work.”
Smulders completed a significant portion of the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm jacket contract.
It also undertook suction bucket work on the Aberdeen Bay wind project.
The Moray East project is a joint venture company owned by EDP Renewables (33.3 %), Diamond Offshore (33.4%), Engie (23.3%) and CTG (10%).
Dan Finch, the board director of Moray East, said: “Smulders have made significant investment and this has resulted in them becoming a viable competitor and UK supplier.
“The company has a recent history of delivering successful offshore wind projects and we look forward to the same high standard and quality of delivery.”
RenewableUK’s head of external affairs Luke Clark added: “Offshore wind is a multi-billion pound opportunity for the whole of the UK, with a wide range of supply chain companies in every part of the country securing work.”