Plans are under way to create a new port near Inverness – with the promise of up to 1,500 new jobs.
The “exciting” development would see industry restored to the former oil platform yard at Ardersier by moving into the growing renewable energy market.
Hopes are high that it would create hundreds of jobs in the Moray Firth area and bring extra business to existing firms in the Highlands and islands.
A company called Port of Ardersier – the new name for the Whiteness Property Development Company, which owns the site – has announced it intends to submit an application for planning permission.
It is carrying out a pre-planning application consultation on the proposal for the former fishing village to the east of Fort George. The scheme would involve establishing a port and services for energy-related uses at the former fabrication yard at Whiteness Head.
Services would include manufacture, construction, assembly, repair, maintenance and decommissioning of turbines. Provision would also be made for the delivery and export of port-related cargo.
A public exhibition is to be held at the site office in Whiteness Road, Ardersier, on Thursday, December 13, from 2-5pm.
Work to create the new facility would include marine channel dredging, realigning the lengthy quayside used by oil-rig manufacturers, repairs, maintenance and the construction of offices and industrial and storage buildings. The site was closed by owner J. Ray McDermott in 2000 after almost 30 years of activity, resulting in the loss of 1,300 jobs.
At the time, this represented 5% of the Highland region’s workforce and was described as the biggest job loss in the history of the Highlands.
David Richardson, Highlands and islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I think this is very good news indeed.
“If this project goes ahead and it complements the existing facilities at Invergordon, Nigg and Inverness, then it will be very welcome at a time when marine energy and renewables in general are expanding.
“What we don’t want to see is it turning into a fight between Ardersier and the Cromarty Firth Port Authority and Nigg – but if this is bringing more business to the Moray Firth area, then it will be a very good thing.”
He added that he hoped it would create additional work for smaller local businesses in the supply chain.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “I think it is quite an exciting development for the region and reflects the opportunity there is in renewables for the whole of the Highlands and islands.
“Inverness, Invergordon and Nigg are very active in the marketplace already and, with the history of oil rig construction in Ardersier, it’s a well-established facility that it would be good to be able to bring back into use.”