Port Environment and HSEQ

Securing a future for the Port means a secure future for the firth.

We are fortunate to look after a stretch of water that provides a home for a diverse range of wildlife. The Firth is a great place for spotting an abundance of birds and marine life which co-exist happily alongside port activities.

Did you know?

  • Each year there are 30,000 wintering birds sheltering in the Firth, including internationally significant numbers of wildfowl and wading birds. Many of the shores around the Firth are protected as Ramsar sites or Special Protected Areas (SPAs).
  • There are 300 pairs of nesting terns between Alness and Nigg. These birds are regularly monitored by the RSPB during their nesting season.
  • 195 bottlenose dolphins make their home between the Cromarty Firth and Dundee. This is one of only two resident populations of bottlenose dolphins in the UK. They are protected under a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Tide Table

Tide Tables for the Cromarty Firth are available from the Port Office in Invergordon and also from local bookshops.

For tidal information over the next few days, visit http://www.ukho.gov.uk/easytide/easytide/selectport.aspx

There is an abundance of thriving wildlife in and around the Firth

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has two nature reserves in the Cromarty Firth; Udale Bay and Nigg Bay. Both areas provide a winter home to thousands of geese, ducks and waders. Summer visitors include breeding eider, terns and osprey.

Find out more at https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/udale-bay/ and https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/nigg-bay

The Port is a vibrant, ecologically important and protected environment and we take our environmental responsibilities extremely seriously. A large proportion of the Firth’s waters and shores are protected by international Directives. This includes a Special Area of Conservation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Ramsar sites for the protection of birds and Special Protected Areas. These Directives protect species including one of the UKs two resident populations of bottlenose dolphins, whooper swans, bar-tailed godwits, common terns which nest on the Port’s Service Base, red-breasted mergansers, ospreys, and greylag geese which overwinter in the Firth.

Find out more at:



Moray Firth Partnership – SAC Management Group – view site

The Moray Firth Partnership (MFP) plays a unique role as a neutral, independent charity in promoting and facilitating sustainable solutions to the marine and coastal challenges faced by the Moray Firth and its communities.

Port of Cromarty Firth has long supported the Partnership as we recognise the importance of balancing economic, social and environmental sustainability in such a sensitive area.

Current project support includes a focus on marine litter, in addition to providing core funding to the MFP.

Part of MFP’s role is to provide secretarial support to the Management Group which has responsibility for managing the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation (SAC). You can find out more at https://www.morayfirth-partnership.org/

Ports have a natural ebb and flow: The tide comes in and the tide goes out. People come and go, businesses open and close, industries change with the times and wildlife changes with the seasons.

The only constant is the water. The Firth sustains and supports life, jobs and communities. The Port is honoured to act as a guardian for the sustainable use of the firth to ensure current and future generations can enjoy its many benefits.

Looking back at over 200 years of history in the Cromarty Firth.

Inverbreakie, the original name of the town, was first mentioned in the 13th Century when the castle there was occupied by a Flemish representative of William the Lion. The site of today’s harbour was occupied by a handful of thatched houses at the time. The castle was originally little more than a stone tower.

Invergordon and Cromarty Firth has been a port since the early 18th Century. The Royal Navy visited the port during the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745. The town of Invergordon was named after Sir William Gordon who was a prominent landowner and who bought the castle estate in the early 1700s. Gordon enlarged and rebuilt the castle, but it is his son, Sir John, who is the true founder of Invergordon.

The village began to develop when the MacLeods of Cadboll purchased the castle property and developed the harbour that soon became an important distribution point for the Highlands. Docks were constructed, and cargo vessels first used the port in 1785. In the mid-19th Century, Cromarty Firth was primarily a coaling base and a port handling grain and livestock. In the early 20th Century, the Royal Navy established a base there.

In 1907, Invergordon and Cromarty Firth welcomed 14.5 thousand men and 20 torpedo boats, 12 battleships, six cruisers, and two scout ships. In 1912, the UK Ministry of Defence established a permanent naval base here, which was in use until 1993. During World War I, Cromarty Firth was a fully-equipped navy base and dockyard.

The cruiser HMS Natal was at anchor at Cromarty Firth when it accidentally exploded, killing 300 sailors and their families. During the Great Depression when the British government cut the salaries of its employees (including seamen), the Atlantic Fleet anchored in Cromarty Firth and refused to leave the port in an act of defiance. Known as the Invergordon Mutiny, it involved no violence and had little real effect.

Because it was near German flying routes during World War II, the Navy did not rely on Cromarty Firth as a major navy base. But it was a base for flying boats, with Invergordon as a base for three squadrons of aircraft that patrolled the North Sea area.

In 1971, a pier was constructed with the British Aluminium smelter at Saltburn, providing much employment for the area until it closed in 1981. In the early 1970s, the oil platform construction yard was opened at Nigg, and the Cromarty Firth Port Authority was founded. The authority expanded the port area to support oil rig maintenance services and to supplement the Nigg facility.

Controlled by an independent board without shareholders, the Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) was created in 1973 by an Act of Parliament to support the oil and gas industry. The CFPA shared responsibility for port functions with the Navy.

In 1974, Highland Deephaven was opened and, in 1979, the British National Oil Corporation announced its plan to build a North Sea Base at Invergordon. The Beatrice Oil Field began to produce in 1981, and the Transworld 58 was the first oil rig to undergo repairs in the Firth in 1978. In 1984, the Navy withdrew and closed its refuelling base at Cromarty Firth. In 1988, the Navy relinquished pilotage responsibilities to the CFPA.

CFPA owned a third of the Moray Firth Service Company that was founded in 1984 to operate and manage the Invergordon Service Base. In 1983, the Navy withdrew completely from Cromarty Firth, relinquishing the operations of the Admiralty Pier. Today, the Admiralty Pier is used for cruise liners who bring visitors to Scotland’s Highlands.

The 90’s brought a lot of development to the Firth, with investment in a new berth 4 at the Invergordon Service Base and a £7.5 million refurbishment of the dry dock at Nigg.

There were twenty five years of successful production at the oil platform construction yard in Nigg, but in April 2000 the yard was closed. It would take eleven years before it was bought and reopened by local company, Global Energy Group.

In that time the oil industry enjoyed another major upturn in fortunes and demand for inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) work on drilling rigs increased during 2004 and 2005. The port welcomed its 600th rig for such work.

Port of Cromarty Firth remains a leading port in Europe for oil rig IRM projects. There are between 600 and 1,000 skilled jobs on the Invergordon Service Base when there is a large rig project being undertaken. Approximately 70% of the ports revenue is still linked to oil-related activities. Investments in new berths and facilities have led to successful diversification programme; attracting cruise tourism and renewable energy projects in the main.

Ports have a natural ebb and flow: The tide comes in and the tide goes out. People come and go, businesses open and close, industries change with the times and wildlife changes with the seasons. The only constant is the water. The Firth sustains and supports life, jobs and communities.