The Port of Cromarty Firth has recorded its best ever year in 2017, according to its annual review released today, with a turnover of £9.9 m, which is £1m higher than its previous turnover record in 2016.
This strength of position will enable the Port to continue to invest in major developments, such as the new quayside and laydown space, which is in the planning stages to be built through 2019/2020.
Last year was an extremely busy one for the Port, which saw it diversify from its core business of oil and gas, to renewables, decommissioning and cruise. This diversification strategy and a higher number of vessels than expected resulted in the improvement.
Bob Buskie, Chief Executive for the Port of Cromarty Firth said: “At the start of 2016, with low oil and gas prices, we knew the Port had to adapt to sustain our growth and help keep local people in work. Firstly, supporting our core customers in oil and gas was a key concern. After the necessary consultation, we introduced a new pricing for statutory dues in January 2017, which meant an average five per cent reduction in fees for most clients, supporting them through the downturn.
“Secondly, the Port had to look to the future and see what we could do to help sustain jobs and growth. This is where our diversification strategy came in, with 2017 seeing us undertake a project to introduce decommissioning to the Port in an open port policy, where our supply chain could bid for work under our licences.
“The £25m investment in our Phase three quayside and laydown area in 2015/16, allowed us to bid for renewable energy work. The largest project for this new berth was in support of the £2.6 billion Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Project. The Port was awarded two contracts by Seaway Heavy Lifting for laydown space, berthing and office space to support the 84-turbine windfarm. These contracts will run until the end of 2018.”
Cruise continued to be a success story in 2017, with the Port being named as the busiest in Scotland. In another record-breaking year, the Port welcomed 93 ships and more than 150,000 passengers to the Highlands. This represented a 54 per cent increase on 2016. The direct spend from these passengers was worth more than £15m to the Highland economy and provided a boost to a range of attractions.
The joint venture Cruise Highlands came to an end in 2017, which left the Port free to invest in this ever-growing sector. The Port has plans to build a new multi-use berth development to provide modern facilities and to accommodate the largest cruise ships that are currently being built around the world. The Port also ran two workshops, in conjunction with the cruise companies and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to help local businesses understand and work with this lucrative sector. A cruise stakeholder group was also established to help improve logistics and communication.
Douglas Russell, Chair of Port of Cromarty Firth’s Board, said: “The Port’s record breaking year was not without its challenges. We started the year on a low as the price of oil and gas remained depressed and as our core market suffered, so did we. It is a remarkable achievement that we ended 2017 on a high, which was down to the huge amount of hard work delivered by the entire staff, and a measured diversification strategy that was developed by the Port’s senior management team.
“As board members of a Trust port, we have responsibility not only to ensure the economic and social sustainability of the area and its communities, but we are also guardians of a very special marine environment. This successful year allows us to reinvest 100 per cent of the profits back into the development of the Port to ensure that its facilities continue to benefit current and future generations.”