THE prospect of the Nigg yard playing a part in a multimillion-pound warship construction project has been welcomed by the area’s new MP amidst plans by the facility’s parent company to “future proof” operations there.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon this week said he was “happy” to agree to instruct officials to consider Nigg Energy Park, owned by the Global Energy Group, for a UK government contract for the construction of five new Royal Navy frigates, set to be built in “modular” form at several centres before final assembly.
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone, who used to work at the Easter Ross yard, asked Mr Fallon to consider the yard when new contracts are drawn up.
Mr Fallon said: “I am happy to agree to that. I hope the Nigg Yard will be included and I will make sure that our officials include it in the discussions we are now going to begin on the technical details of this with the various yards and other companies involved. I well recall my own visit to Nigg when I was Minister for Oil and Gas and I am very much aware of efforts that yard is making to diversify away from the oil and gas sector so we will make sure the Nigg Yard is fully able to participate and receives all the information necessary to do so.”
Mr Stone said he was delighted with the response, adding: “It could well mark the beginning of an exciting new time for Nigg.
“Mr Fallon’s knowledge of the potential of the yard was most encouraging.
“His clear backing for modular warship construction – building different parts of ships in different places to be joined up later – gives us a real chance of securing valuable new naval construction contracts in the future.”
He went on: “Indeed this is only the start of an opportunity for my constituency that I shall now vigorously pursue.”
Moves to “future proof” Nigg Energy Park will meanwhile next week take another step forward as bosses seek planning consent from Highland Council for their proposals.
Plans, including building a new workshop as well as creating storage space for offshore renewable materials, have been submitted to the local authority in a proposal of application notice.
At next Tuesday’s Sep 12 north planning applications committee, councillors will have the opportunity to discuss the proposals and flag up any concerns before operators Global Energy Group submit a full planning application.
A report for the committee states that the extension will provide a new “blast and paint” workshop, as use land for “the storage of raw materials and fabricated products for the offshore renewables sector”.
Another two applications for Nigg are already going through the planning process, for two demountable buildings, to be used as a canteen and offices, a new warehouse and extension to a current warehouse.
The Global Group has faced challenges in a number of its divisions in recent times.
Alastair Kennedy, communications director for Global Energy Group, said, “It is important for Nigg Energy Park to look ahead and be prepared for opportunities which might develop over time.
“At present there is a particular focus on the renewables sector, and we need to ensure we have the right facilities and infrastructure in place to take advantage of the opportunities which present themselves.
“Since taking ownership of the site, we have always adopted a proactive approach to ensuring we have the right permissions in place to allow us react quickly to the right opportunities, and this has been demonstrated by the massive investment which has already taken place at Nigg Energy Park.
“So this planning application is considered as us future-proofing the site to maximise the potential for further development over the coming months and years.”