A combination of private and public sector vision and investment looks set to revitalise a ‘sleeping giant’ fabrication yard in the Scottish Highlands.
The massive Kishorn yard and dry dock, created more than 30 years ago to build super-sized structures including the world’s largest man-made moveable object – the 600,000 tonne Ninian oil platform – has lain practically dormant for heavy industry since the early 1990’s
Now, however, the Wester Ross facility has been earmarked for a key potential role in the imminent offshore wind turbine construction boom and the emerging wave and tidal generation industry.
The Kishorn yard’s rapid re-emergence as a potential manufacturing and service hub reflects the region’s drive and determination, at commercial and public sector levels, to tackle the new energy opportunities on its doorstep.
A two-phase, £11.75 million masterplan has been drawn up by a joint venture of national and local businesses for Kishorn, where hundreds of new skilled jobs could be created.
Meanwhile, in July 2010, a Scottish Government report (National Renewables Infrastructure Plan, or NRIP) confirmed the yard as a national priority for commercial redevelopment to supply manufacturing, assembly, fabrication and other logistics for offshore renewables.
NRIP, produced by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, stresses the need for renewables candidate ports to ensure good resources – including quaysides, hardstanding and utilities like power and water – are in place for strong industry demand within three years or sooner.
It cites Kishorn as a priority, in its own right and as a key part of a wider Scottish ‘west coast cluster’ of ports, each carrying out specialist elements of major manufacturing and other operations. Its cluster counterparts could include Arnish on Lewis, where operators BiFab are already experienced in marine energy and offshore wind fabrication; Campbeltown/Machrihanish in Argyll, where Wind Towers Ltd produces wind turbine towers; and Hunterston in Ayrshire, owned by Clydeport.
The report revealed that Kishorn can be brought to readiness for less investment than any of the other ten prime sites it identifies around Scotland, and this could also have positive implications for its speed of redevelopment.
The site’s relatively economical renewal costs include the fact that past operators had already invested heavily in creation of its lasting infrastructure including the 150-metre diameter, 12-metre deep dry dock, 26 hectares of hardstanding, slipway and four deepwater quays.
Another particular advantage is the fact that the huge facility is not currently split up and parcelled-out to a variety of industrial operators, unlike many other sites around the country, which means development planning can be speedy and comprehensive.
Its developers also see a strong heavy manufacturing selling point in its sheltered deepwater location, from which offshore structures and devices could be easily taken anywhere in Europe by sea.
The two businesses behind the redevelopment plan are the national quarry products and construction materials company Leiths, and west highland-based transport and logistics business Ferguson Transport.
The companies, who have existing quarrying and freight shipping business operations at Kishorn, have created Kishorn Port Limited and acquired a mix of ownership and rights to its range of facilities.
Leiths is one of Scotland’s largest independent construction materials producers. Turning over more than £50 million a year and employing over 500 people, the group’s interests include quarries, concrete and coated stone plants, as well as civil engineering and construction. Headquartered in Aberdeen, Leiths currently operate a stone quarry, concrete batching and precasting facilities at Kishorn.
Fort William-based Ferguson Transport employs more than 80 people in transport and distribution, with an annual turnover of £7 million-plus. It loads, freights, stores and distributes goods including forest products, oil-related supplies and fish feed across the UK via its fleet of over 40 vehicles and its dedicated vessels. At Kishorn, it has a cargo-handling, warehousing, sea freight and port services operation.
The transport company’s managing director, and Kishorn Port director, Alasdair Ferguson said: “Kishorn is a sleeping giant of a manufacturing and service hub for renewables, with the potential to create hundreds of skilled jobs for the west highlands in sectors like engineering, fabrication and transport.
“And it’s a light sleeper too, because the initial estimated cost to restore the infrastructure, in phase one of our masterplan, is just £2.75 million, compared to the NRIP report’s estimations of between £5million and £65 million for the other nominated sites around Scotland.”
The phase one costs were determined through an infrastructure assessment plan funded by Kishorn Port and development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise. They include restoring the dry dock gates, providing for heavy craneage, quayside load-out and other services.
Fellow director Simon Russell, who is chief executive of Leiths, said: “We are delighted that the expert report has shown that Kishorn Port’s redevelopment is not only feasible but is highly cost-effective compared to other sites, despite the greater area of accessible industrial land, dry dock and deepwater access. We can now confidently take the project to market in the knowledge that we could beat the NRIP report’s three-year infrastructure readiness target by more than half.”
The company’s first steps are likely to include bringing in a third, energy-related business partner to work with them on the infrastructure-related phase before looking to phase two’s estimated £9 million investment in buildings, equipment, power and other resources.
They have also set in train planning procedures and environmental impact research for the site, which has local authority structure plan support for industrial development.