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Kishorn Dry Dock opens new chapter after welcoming a ship inside for first time in 25 years after providing berth for troubled cargo vessel MV Kaami, which ran aground between Skye and Lewis in March and was successfully refloated this week

By Philip Murray

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The MV Kaami arrives after being refloated and towed to the port.
The MV Kaami arrives after being refloated and towed to the port.

A SLEEPING industrial giant passed a significant milestone for this first time in a quarter of a century this week.

Kishorn Dry Dock in Wester Ross was fully opened to the sea to allow a ship into the dock – the first time in 25 years that this has taken place.

The vessel in question was the MV Kaami, a cargo ship which ran aground on rocks in March after it got into difficulty between Skye and Lewis. It was successfully floated clear and taken to Kishorn this week.

And delighted Kishorn Port bosses believe its arrival marked the start of a new chapter in the life of one of Europe's largest dry docks.

The milestone began in the early hours of Tuesday when one of the 13,000 tonne dry dock gates was gently eased from its base and towed out into Loch Kishorn for temporary mooring.

The operation was completed following a week of detailed preparatory work to ready the gate for its move. This included removing the large gate seals which keep the dock dry; flooding the dock and pumping of water from inside the gate structure itself to allow it to float.

Weather and tidal conditions were ideal for floating and moving the gate. Smoke drifting over Loch Kishorn from a wildfire on the hillsides above Auchintraid provided an atmospheric backdrop to the operation.

The gates are floated clear.
The gates are floated clear.

Alasdair Ferguson, director of Kishorn Port Limited announced said: ‘This is an important milestone in bringing Kishorn dry dock back into use.

"It follows over 18 months of investment in the dock by Kishorn Port Limited supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Decommissioning Challenge Fund.

"We’re extremely grateful for the assistance we’ve had from those bodies and others which has made this possible and also the support from the local community and the Applecross Trust. The port team and our contractors have worked around the clock to prepare the dock whilst observing social distancing and other measures required in the current crisis.’

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has invested more than £700,000 in Kishorn in recent years. This contributed towards the costs of overhauling the dock gates, cleaning the site, creating a new access road, and buying and installing dry dock gate anchors.

Alastair Nicolson, HIE’s interim area manager for Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross, said: “Kishorn dock is a unique facility for all marine industries such as construction of concrete structures for offshore wind but particularly decommissioning and dismantling projects such as this.

"It’s great to see this project arrive, demonstrating the area’s competitiveness in this market and helping to sustain valuable jobs, which contribute significantly to both economic and community growth in a rural part of the area.”

The original Kishorn Yard was developed as a manufacturing and fabrication yard for oil platforms in the 1970s. The dry dock was built especially to enable the construction of the 600,000 tonne Ninaian Central platform. The dry dock was last used for the construction of the two main bridge supports for the Skye Bridge in 1993.

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