The Cromarty Firth Port Authority

Issue 03 2011

Local authority

Based in Invergordon, The Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) is North of Scotland’s leading port for the offshore energy industry, and exists to develop, improve and safeguard the Cromarty Firth as a port to the benefit of all its shareholders.

It is an independent statutory body established by Act of Parliament in 1973, although its roots as a Navy port stretch as far back as 1715. The CFPA is also the UK’s largest offshore oil rig inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) port, through its facility – the Invergordon Service Base. At its dedicated alongside facility at Saltburn Pier, the CFPA undertakes bulk, project and general cargo handling the Firth also provides subsea engineering, deep anchorages, and renewable energy services.

The Port handles an impressive volume of goods and services, as highlighted by chief executive and Harbour Master, Ken Gray: “In 2010, 1250 ship movements took place in the port, where we handled a total of seven million tonnes of shipping. We had 1804 rig days of both hot and cold stacked anchored rigs in the Cromarty Firth, and a further 469 rig days for repair, inspection and modification works. At present approximately £2 billion worth of goods and services pass through the Port each year, as well as £80 million in the Invergordon Service Base, which only covers an area of 30 acres.” As well as the activities of the CFPA itself, the Port is also home to a variety of tenants, such as international services company RBG, and major subsea fabricator and IRM repairer Global Energy.

Given its diverse business portfolio, which makes the most of its modern facilities and natural assets of deep sheltered waters, it is easy to see why Cromarty Firth is the UK’s premier offshore port. “Our can-do attitude means that we strive to meet the requirements of any customer through our range of facilities and experienced and skilled supply chain. Within the local community we have a labour force in excess of 1500 people, and at times may have up to 1000 people specifically working in the Service Base at Invergordon. We also have the skills on site to be able to tackle some of the larger projects within the North Sea. As a port authority we have invested over £4 million in new facilities through our programme of continuous development in the last four years, and the workshops and fabrication facilities operated by our tenants are some of the best in Scotland,” describes Ken.

Cromarty Firth is also well placed to meet the needs of the rapidly growing offshore renewable energy industry as the closest deep-water port to the Beatrice and Moray wind farm projectsto be constructed in the Outer Moray Firth. The CFPA is already well experienced in this market having handled through the port 160 onshore turbine units, ranging from one to 2.2 megawatts, in the last four years. In addition, the Cromarty Firth is also operating within the sector’s innovative frontline having carried out assembly work and shipping services on two experimental five megawatt turbines for the Beatrice field, and four experimental wave and tide generators – the Atlantis, the Oyster, the Ocean Power Technology (OPT), and the Open Hydro Scheme.

Earlier this month the CFPA, along with its partner Simpson Oils of Wick, commissioned a new £180,000 road tanker fuel loading gantry at the Invergordon Service Base – a venture Ken is keen to expand upon: “Previously we were supplying fuel to marine customers, but having increased our facilities we are now also able to provide gas oil to inland customers and local businesses. Not only is this an opportunity for us to be able to provide a better service to the local community, but it also reduces road transport congestion by bringing the fuel into the Port by sea and then further distributing it by road.”

With this development already being well accepted into the market, the CFPA is looking into further expansion plans for the Invergordon Service Base, particularly with regards to servicing the newer renewable energy market. Currently the company is carrying out primary studies into the facilities, quay space, and storage required to meet these market demands, with long-term plans to strengthen its position for the next round of developments at the Beatrice and Moray sites. Remaining ahead of the market is a key challenge for the business, as Ken highlights: “Naturally these facilities take time to develop and to construct, so for us the challenge is getting the time frames right to ensure that we have the right facilities in place to meet the needs of future markets as they arise.”

2010 was a record-breaking year for the Port, which given the difficult conditions left behind by the economic crisis, is a real achievement. 73 per cent of the CFPA’s business is within the oil and gas industry, where it saw a real benefit from the reduced activity of the North Sea as operators looked to undertake IRM work, upgrades, and subsea activities in this quieter period. Having just completed its 20 year marketing and business development study, the CFPA expects the oil and gas industry to remain its primary area of activity, but drawing on the synergies between the two sectors, will increase its presence in the renewable market. “The type of technologies, experience, and skills that we have developed for the oil and gas industry also very much lend themselves to the offshore renewable market. The more we can utilise these synergies to improve facilities, the better we are at de-risking future projects within these sectors,” concludes Ken.

The Cromarty Firth Port Authority
Services: Inspection, repair and maintenance

The Cromarty Firth Port Authority