Cromarty Firth port in Invergordon is showing ‘strong resilience’ amid declining turnover as harsh conditions take their toll

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Cromarty Firth Port in Invergordon has big aspirations for growth and says it faces difficult conditions at the moment. Photo: PoCF

Last year the Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) demonstrated its “strong resilience” in a difficult operating environment and market conditions.

This is the point of view shared today by its managing director.

Amid oil prices that have remained low for most of 2021 and the continued impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Highland port has seen reduced activity in most of the areas it serves.

Cromarty Firth Port General Manager Bob Buskie.
Cromarty Firth Port General Manager Bob Buskie.

But chief executive Bob Buskie said continued infrastructure investment during the year, along with the experience gained in supporting major renewable energy development, meant the port of confidence was in a “privileged position” to support Scotland’s offshore energy transition.

Annual results released today showed Invergordon-based PoCF’s turnover in the year to the end of December 2021 was £9.2m, down from £12.7m during the previous 12 months.

The port’s surplus (pre-tax profit) of £1.2m, which will be fully reinvested in its improvement and development, was also below the 2020 figure of £4.8m.

Mr. Buskie said: “The Port has once again shown great resilience in the face of a challenging operating environment and market conditions. Revenue fell 28% to £9.2m due to significant reductions in the number of submarine vessels, rigs at anchor and offshore service vessels, resulting from the slowdown in the oil sector and gas.

“Renewable shipping was also down year-over-year, due to the phasing of projects, which impacted rents and storage costs.

“The cruise industry has had a welcome comeback throughout 2021, with 20 port calls, after a year where we had none due to the Covid-19 crisis. But it still represents a down 80% from historic pre-pandemic levels.”

The recruitment of additional staff, bringing the workforce of the Port of Easter Ross to 42, contributed to the increase in operating costs.

Over the past seven years, the PoCF has invested in infrastructure specifically targeted at growth opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

In the summer of 2021, his £50million Quay West development in Invergordon was officially opened by HRH Princess Anne. With two new quays and a 372 meter quay, it also has one of the largest port facilities of its kind in the UK, at over 90,000m².

The year also saw the conclusion of the construction of the 950 megawatt (MW) Moray East offshore wind farm, in which the PoCF played a key role as an intermediate port.

Mr Buskie said: “The experience gained from participating in this project, coupled with our recent infrastructure investments, means we are in a unique position to support Scotland’s offshore energy transition.”

“The port has played a leading role in the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium, working with partners from industry, academia and the public sector. OCF’s primary objective is to position the Highlands at the heart of the country’s commitment to becoming a net zero economy, delivering economic benefits and jobs by achieving Green Freeport status.

“The renewable energy sector is a key target market for the port. Our ambitions for the future remain within reach with the ScotWind offshore wind farm site rental announcements.

“The proximity of the ScotWind sites to the Cromarty Firth presents a potential sustainable pipeline of port, regional and supply chain opportunities for years to come.”

Half of PoCF’s revenue in 2021 came from oil and gas industry activity, 30% from renewable energy, 10% from cruises and 10% from other sectors. With a total tonnage of 4.6 million gross tons, there were 465 ship arrivals at the port during the year.

Hugh Mitchell, who was appointed chairman of the independent PoCF board at the end of 2021, having previously served as vice-chairman, said it had been a successful year for the Trust Port.

He added: “Operating in a context of lockdowns, bubbles and changing regulations, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has continued to present challenges to the operation. Our staff and stakeholders have once again stepped up to meet the challenges head-on, ensuring the port remains open 24/7 throughout 2021.

“I would like to express my thanks to all stakeholders, staff, port users, local communities, regional businesses and my fellow Cromarty Firth Port Board members for their support, professionalism and their dedication, without which the achievements of 2021 would not have been possible.

Mr Mitchell also thanked former chairman Roger Eddie after his retirement after serving on the board for nine years.

In 2021, a total of over £56,000 has been awarded to local groups through PoCF’s Community Sponsorship Scheme.

Recipients included Nigg Community Hall and the James Support Group, which works with people bereaved or affected by suicide.

Funding has also been provided to a number of other organizations and groups including Ross Sutherland Rugby Club, Invergordon Golf Club, Blackrock Recreation Hub, Evanton Community Wood and Ross County Girls and Women Football Club.


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