LERWICK Port Authority has awarded a £4.6 million contract to Shetland civil engineering firm Tulloch Developments to create a new deepwater berth to handle deep sea oil and gas vessels working in the north Atlantic.
Two years ago the port deepened its northern entrance to nine metres to accommodate the growing number of super-sized support ships working in the Atlantic margin oil and gas fields west of Shetland.
The contract, which should begin early in the new year and take 12 months to complete, will involve deepening two other berths at the Greenhead Base giving the port a continuous 345 metres of berthing to nine metres depth.
Port chief executive Sandra Laurenson said the existing deepwater berth was very popular with the new generation of offshore construction and ping support vessels, and Shetland was well placed to make the most of this growing market.
A lot of new ships are being built to work in the very deep waters north and west of the islands, now that the North Sea oil and gas fields were diminishing.
“We have already won some of this business in previous years and it looks like it is increasing,” Ms Laurenson said.
The deepwater berth is the first phase of the port’s next stage of development, which includes a new fish market and a working area for decommissioning and offshore renewables at Dales Voe.
The port has put in a bid for European funding to build a new fishmarket at Mair’s Yard, which it hopes to commence work on next year.
The port has had to extend its borrowings from banks to pay for the developments after losing £5.25 million when Shetland Islands Council took out an interim interdict to stop initial dredging of Lerwick harbour in 2005.
The interdict was eventually lifted but the port had to look for a new contractor to carry out the work and pay compensation to the original dredging firm.
The port and the council are currently awaiting a hearing in the Court of Session to resolve the issue of costs.
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