WICK harbour will not become the operations and maintenance base for a massive offshore wind farm project in the Moray Firth.
The decision to choose Fraserburgh as the base for the Moray East development was described as disappointing yesterday by local politicians and business leaders.
Willie Watt, the chairman of the Wick Harbour Authority, said: “It is disappointing for Wick and Caithness that it has gone to Fraserburgh but we are still hoping to secure work from Moray East and support it in some way, although not to the extent we would have wanted.”
Wick was selected last year as the O&M base for Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) just off the Caithness coast.
Mr Watt explained that a service operations vessel will be based at the Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) site 24 hours a day. It will provide on-board workshops, spare parts storage, crane and office facilities but will get supplies from another large vessel. By contrast the BOWL project will use smaller crew transfer vessels on a daily basis to provide crew and supplies.
“It is just a different strategy being used at MORL and we could not accommodate that size of vessel at Wick as we do not have the shelter and water depth required,” he said. “If we had our new quay at Shaltigoe we would have been able to accommodate it.”
But Mr Watt is confident the harbour will still play a part in servicing the MORL project and in other renewable projects in the Moray Firth basin. He pointed out that Wick is 33 kilometres from the wind farm while Fraserburgh is 70km away.
“We wish Fraserburgh and Moray East well and will continue to develop Wick harbour,” Mr Watt said. “We will move forward on a strong footing in the renewables market as well as in the fishing and cargo sectors.”
He added that work on the BOWL base is progressing well and will create upwards of 150 jobs.
Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay said: “It is very disappointing news. Hopes were high this project could come to Wick. There have been a lot of improvements going on at the harbour which has the potential for a positive future.
“I hope other projects can come to Wick and I look forward to seeing improvements on the platform the BOWL project creates for the town and the community in general. I hope we can bring lots of jobs and apprenticeships to the area.”
Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, was “very disappointed” by the decision as the Wick harbour team has worked “extremely hard” to make the port an attractive base.
“As the larger of the two offshore wind projects proposed for this area, it would have been a significant boost to the harbour and the region to have MORL based here,” she said.
But she added: “It has been fantastic to see the progress made at Wick harbour this year in preparing for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd operations and maintenance contract, and we look forward to the benefits this will bring to the area.”
Eann Sinclair, programme manager for the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership, was also disappointed by the decision. However, he is confident there will still be opportunities for Wick harbour to get work in the Moray Firth area.
MORL spokesman Craig Milroy said Wick was in the running for the O&M base along with Buckie and Fraserburgh. A memorandum of understanding had been signed with Wick.
“All three were strongly engaged with us but we chose Fraserburgh,” he said. “There was not a single reason for choosing Fraserburgh but a combination of circumstances. All the ports were very competitive and attractive.”