First port of call
The Cromarty Firth is the premier deepwater port in the Highlands of Scotland, offering sheltered waters and deepwater quays for oil rig, subsea and barge activities.
The Firth is well placed geographically to service the offshore oil industry within the Northern sector of the North Sea; the 18 miles of the navigable Firth, with Easter Ross on the North Bank and the Black isle to the South, flows into the Moray Firth at its mouth, which provides sheltered deep waters.
The Firth has numerous quays and jetties along the Easter Ross shores, able to accommodate tankers up to 150,000 DWT, the largest oil rigs, and supply and subsea vessels at all states of the tide and weather conditions. Situated along the shores of the Firth is a varied and experienced group of supply chain companies capable of accommodating both IRM and subsea engineering in addition to general fabrication and repair works.
The Firth has a long history of providing sheltered anchorages, heavy engineering and vessel maintenance, and was an important Naval base during the first and second world wars. With the decline in Naval activity in the 1970s the Firth was transformed into commercial activities through the formation of the Cromarty Firth Port Authority and has benefited from North Sea oil exploration.
The Cromarty Firth is linked by pipeline to the Beatrice oil field and in 2009 the Jacky field, which is tied in to the Beatrice platform, came on stream. This tie in has resulted in considerable investment in the field and terminal by the operators, Ithaca Energy, and has increased the operational life of the facility.
In the last 30 years over 600 rigs have visited the Firth to undertake IRM works and taken advantage of the sheltered anchorage. The modern pipe spooling facilities at Highland Deephaven operated by Technip has a causeway spooling facility over two kilometres in length and has been utilised for projects throughout the world.
The Invergordon Service Base was constructed in the 1980s and is owned and operated by CFPA, providing modern dedicated IRM facilities, project and storage land and shed space together with heavy lift capability and onsite specialist fabrication companies.
Formed in 1973, the Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) has the responsibility of developing, improving and safeguarding the Cromarty Firth as a port. With no shareholders an no owners, Cromarty Firth there are no distributable profits from the port, as all profits are put straight back into the harbour for the benefit of the authority’s stakeholders. Existing solely to improve, maintain and manage the harbour undertaking, the CFPA is an independent body, administered by an elected Board. The Authority funds its investment activities from its own resources on a commercial basis and is ultimately accountable to the Scottish Government.
Ken Gray, port manager and harbour master, elaborates on the port’s main purposes: “The CFPA operates as a trust port and as such has functions both statutory and non-statutory. The statutory functions are as a port authority, regulating the movement of traffic to maintain safe navigation, meeting environmental targets and providing emergency planning, including oil pollution response within the area. The non-statutory functions include the Invergordon Service Base, where approximately 450 people work to provide full time undertaking inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) work.
“The entire business of CFPA is accredited under ISO 9001/2008 quality management system and is managed and operated by an experienced and processional team. We are proud of our customer care and professional flexible approach to meeting our customers’ needs.”
Ken describes recent developments at the port: “The Port has developed into the UK’s premier IRM facility with 386 rig days alongside in 2008 and is looking to the future by embarking on a major improvement strategy to the Invergordon Service Base over a five year time scale; this includes investment in sheds, land, security, services, car parking and infrastructure to meet customers and stakeholders requirements To attract new business and retain existing customers we must provide an efficient and well operated service with modern facilities, we are investing to provide this within an increasingly competitive market place.
“The last 12 months have been challenging with initial instability in the price of crude and entering a world economic depression, however the CFPA business has remained buoyant with increased IRM activity. Subsea business has remained stable but it is hoped that 2010 onwards will see more investment in this area.”
Cromarty Firth Port Authority will be on Stand 387 at the Offshore Europe Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition.
Cromarty Firth Port Authority
Services: Port services