Unions welcome 290 wind jobs at former BiFab yard amid calls for new ‘industrial plan’

Maybe, just maybe, it could be the start of something more strategic for Scotland than first glance would suggest.

But whatever follows, the news that nearly 300 jobs are to be created at Harland and Wolff’s newly acquired Methil facilities have been greeted warmly. Not least as the new owners talk of the importance of geography and hopes of more to come.

For the GMB & Unite unions confirmation of today’s contract for eight turbine jackets supporting the Neart na Gaoithe offshore windfarm project at the Fife yard perhaps offered some cautious hope of something more tangible to build on.

“This is a welcome development, a working yard is better than an empty yard,” offered Joint Trade Union Secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty in a statement, adding: “But it has to be the first steps in a long journey of investment and contracts for our offshore wind supply chain.

“We need to take the opportunity now to work together and set out an industrial plan for Scotland’s future, it’s the vital ingredient that has been missing since devolution and we can’t succeed without it.”

Renewables in particular are very vogue just now. Not just because of the clear need and opportunity Scotland provides, but every political party is wearing the pro-renewables badge in the march towards the May 6 Holyrood elections.

The timing by Harland & Wolff, the iconic shipyard with over 160 years of maritime and offshore engineering pedigree, is a welcome shot in the arm for an industry looking to maximise leverage in securing support for the industry.

For the union too, a clear opportunity to press their case for a more cohesive approach.

The contract itself has been awarded by Saipem Limited for the fabrication and load-out of eight wind turbine generator (WTG) jacket foundations.

I am confident that this is only the beginning of a stream of projects in our pipeline that we expect to come to fruition.

John Wood, CEO, InfraStrata

The jacket foundations will service the EDF Renewables and ESB owned Neart na Gaoithe Offshore Wind Farm project located in the outer Firth of Forth in Scotland.

The contract schedule is due to commence from 1 July 2021 and is anticipated to create around 290 direct and indirect jobs.

Harland & Wolff is a wholly-owned subsidiary of InfraStrata plc (AIM: INFA), a London Stock Exchange-listed firm focused on strategic infrastructure projects and physical asset life-cycle management.

Its Belfast yard is one of Europe’s largest heavy engineering facilities, with deep water access, two of Europe’s largest drydocks, ample quayside and vast fabrication halls. As a result of the acquisition of Harland & Wolff (Appledore) in August 2020, the company has been able to capitalise on opportunities at both ends of the ship-repair and shipbuilding markets where this will be significant demand.

In February 2021, the company acquired the assets of two Scottish based yards along the east and west coasts. Now known as Harland & Wolff (Methil) and Harland & Wolff (Arnish), these facilities will focus on fabrication work within the renewable, oil and gas and defence sectors.

John Wood, CEO of InfraStrata, said: “We are delighted to have entered into this contract with Saipem and I believe that this contract paves the way for the execution and delivery of future fabrication contracts, a significant number of which are currently in advanced negotiations.

“The geographical proximity of our Methil facility to the North Sea makes it an ideal site for fabrication and load-out to wind farm projects such as this.

“More importantly, it validates our strategic vision of expanding the Group’s fabrication footprint into regions that are strategically located within proximity to major wind farm projects.

“This will enable us to spread workstreams across our facilities to drive down costs, deliver against tight schedules and, crucially, align ourselves to the government’s goal of providing wind generated power to all homes in the UK by 2030.”

He added: “I am confident that this is only the beginning of a stream of projects in our pipeline that we expect to come to fruition.

“We are hugely excited about the massive potential that this first contract has unlocked, and we look forward to working with Saipem to successfully deliver under it.”

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