UK port operator Forth Ports is investing heavily in its heavy-lift capability, looking to capitalize on the North Sea oil and gas decommissioning market.
When fully operational in the fourth quarter of 2017, the £10 million non-contract backed investment of its quayside at Port of Dundee, Scotland, will put it in direct competition with Norway for decommissioning work.
Speaking to Breakbulk, Stuart Wallace, divisional director of Forth Ports, said: “If you look across the UK, what we will deliver is the strongest heavy-lift quayside in Scotland, with the largest area of developable land behind it. We see this as quite a unique asset.”
However, the quayside development is not wholly dependent on oil and gas field decommissioning. It is also set up for project, oil and gas replacement and renewables work. The quayside has been designed to handle the largest offshore wind turbines in service. “Dundee offers a blended type of operation,” Wallace said.
While the port has no active decommissioning contracts, it is starting to see “positive signs” in the North Sea decommissioning market, with active tenders out for either above water structures or subsea structures.
“We are working with either the operator directly or with subsea operators as a second-tier supplier. It’s looking like in 2020 there will absolutely be decommissioning activity happening in the central North Sea area. Dundee is ideally placed for a large number of these fields.”
Forth Ports chose to invest in Dundee’s super heavy-lift capability without the backing of a contract, deciding instead to “create the market,” Wallace said. It is also working with Dundee City Council and local universities in Dundee to develop the necessary skill base to handle increased heavy-lift cargoes.
“We ask, can Dundee be to decommissioning what Aberdeen was to exploration and production? That’s what we’re trying to achieve, and it’s about skills, it’s about technical ability, it’s about infrastructure and it’s about changing mindsets,” he said.