Chief Executive hails Port of Cromarty Firth’s resilience amid challenging market conditions
The Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) demonstrated its “strong resilience” in a challenging operating environment and market conditions last year, its Chief Executive said today (Thursday Nov 3).
Amid oil prices that remained low through most of 2021 and the continuing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Highland port saw reduced activity across most of the sectors it serves.
But, Chief Executive, Bob Buskie, said continuing infrastructure investments during the year, along with experience gained supporting a major renewables development, meant the Trust Port was in “prime position” to support Scotland’s offshore energy transition.
Annual results published today showed Invergordon-based PoCF’s turnover in the year to the end of December 2021 was £9.2million, compared to £12.7m in the previous 12 months. The Port’s surplus (profit before tax) of £1.2m, all of which will be reinvested in its improvement and development, was also lower than 2020’s figure of £4.8m.
Mr Buskie said: “The Port has once again demonstrated strong resilience when faced with a challenging operating environment and market conditions. Turnover dropped 28% to £9.2m due to significant reductions in subsea vessels, rigs at anchor and offshore service vessels, resulting from the downturn in the oil and gas sector.
“Renewable shipping was also lower year-on-year, due to the phasing of projects, which impacted rent and storage charges.
“The cruise industry saw a welcome return throughout 2021, with 20 calls into the Port, following a year when we had none because of the Covid-19 crisis. But, this still represents an 80% drop on historic pre-pandemic levels.”
Recruitment of additional staff, taking the Easter Ross port’s workforce to 42, contributed to increased operating costs.
Over the last seven years the PoCF has invested in infrastructure specifically targeted at growing opportunities in the renewable sector.
In the summer of 2021, its £50m Quay West development at Invergordon was officially opened by HRH Princess Anne. With two new berths and a 372-metre quayside, it also has one of the largest port laydown facilities of its kind in the UK, at more than 90,000sqm.
The year also saw the conclusion of construction of the 950-megawatt (MW) Moray East offshore wind farm, in which the PoCF played an integral role as an intermediary port.
Mr Buskie continued: “Experience gained by involvement in this project, coupled with our recent investments in infrastructure, means that we are in prime position to support Scotland’s offshore energy transition.”
“The Port has taken a leading role in the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium, collaborating 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 become 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 touching distance with ScotWind offshore wind farm site leasing announcements.
“The proximity of the ScotWind sites to the Cromarty Firth presents a potential sustainable pipeline of opportunities for the Port, the region, and the supply chain for years to come.”
Half of the PoCF’s revenue in 2021 came from oil and gas industry activity, 30% from renewables, 10% from cruise and 10% from other sectors. With a total tonnage of 4.6million gross tonnes, there were 465 vessel arrivals at the Port during the year.
Hugh Mitchell, who was appointed chair of the PoCF’s independent Board of Directors at the end of 2021, after serving as vice-chair, said it had been a successful year for the Trust Port.
He added: “Operating against a backdrop of lockdowns, bubbles and changing regulations, there is no doubt that Covid-19 continued to present challenges to the operation. Our staff and our stakeholders have once again risen to meet the challenges head on, ensuring the Port remained open 24/7 throughout 2021.
“I would like to express my thanks to all the Port of Cromarty Firth’s stakeholders, staff, Port users, local communities, regional businesses and my fellow Board members for their support, professionalism, and dedication, without which the achievements of 2021 would not have been possible.”
Mr Mitchell also extended his thanks to former chair, Roger Eddie, following his retirement after serving on the board for nine years.
During 2021, a total of more than £56,000 was awarded to local groups through PoCF’s Community Sponsorship Programme.
Recipients included Nigg Community Hall and the James Support Group, which works with people bereaved or affected by suicide.
Funding was also given to a number of other organisations and groups, including Ross Sutherland Rugby Club, Invergordon Golf Club, Blackrock Recreation Hub, Evanton Community Wood and Ross County Girls and Women Football Club.