Dawn of a new era for Kirkcaldy harbour

Kirkcaldy Harbour was officially re-opened to commercial ships on October 18 after a 20 year gap.

The harbour, owned by Forth Ports, is once again a working waterfront with cargo ships calling regularly at the quay to provide the miller of Scotland’s leading flour brands with quality wheat from around the UK and Europe.

The move from truck to sea will take over 250,000 lorry miles each year from Scotland’s roads, and around 4000 truck loads currently going through the town of Kirkcaldy.

The re-opening was a project between Forth Ports and Scottish flour miller Carr’s Flour Hutchison’s, with the support of a Transport Scotland Freight Facilities Grant of £829,000.

Construction work at the harbour was completed earlier this summer with new silos and conveyors in place to allow the fast discharge of thousands of tonnes of wheat direct from coastal ships.

Commenting on the reopening, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “I congratulate Carr’s Flour Hutchison’s on its investment in this project and for its successful delivery with the support from the Scottish Government through a Freight Facilities Grant, as well as Forth Ports’ role in investing in the necessary dredging and other work to make this project viable.

Economic growth

“This is a good example of the private and public sector working together to make a positive impact on Scotland’s infrastructure.

‘‘This new development contributes to the Scottish Government’s purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.”

Speaking at the opening ceremony Julius Deane, wheat director for Carr’s, said: “The harbour stopped being used in the early 1990s when the lock gates fell to bits and the silting was quite considerable. At low tide there was only an inch of water.

“This project involved a large amount of applications for planning permission to be able to build some silos, a freight facilities grant to help fund the project and a dredging licence because all the spoil from the harbour and the approach had to be taken deep out into the Forth.

“The next stage was planning the best possible layout to discharge vessels quickly and smoothly, and integrating with the existing system that we have here.

“We then had to go through the soft earth to try and find some bed rock which was six metres down so we could construct the concrete pad that is holding 5000 tonnes of steel and wheat. We now have three steel silos so we can stock different grades of wheat there.

“We started construction last December and we’ve been very lucky with good weather, which was very important for the ground work but more essentially for the silos. We needed some wind free days to swing those into place!

“Forth Ports then began a large dredging programme which took about six to eight weeks. It all came together in time for the first vessel to arrive on August 10 and since then we’ve been very busy.”

Vital traffic

He added that the Scottish climate could not reliably grow quality wheat for use in bread making so it needed to be brought in from further south in the UK or from abroad.

Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, said: “Grain is an important traffic for Kirkcaldy.

‘‘We’ve had a bit of a gap since last working with Carr’s here, but we now hope that this facility enjoys a lot of success for many years to come.

“A project like this required the co-operation of a number of different organisations. We required the freight facilities grant which was facilitated so well by Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government.

‘‘We’ve had great support from Fife Council and also the Community Council as well as the Kirkcaldy Boat Club. And all the small community organisations around Kirkcaldy have been very positive about the project and we really appreciate their co-operation.

Duncan Monroe, Carr’s managing director, added: “It is very exciting to see ships berthing alongside our grain silo once more.

“Sea freight direct to the mill has other advantages. It helps ensure an uninterrupted supply of the best quality bread wheats.

‘‘This means that in years such as this, when the wheat harvest in Scotland has been difficult, we can still supply our customers with the consistent quality products they are used to.

“Our business has been in Kirkcaldy for nearly 200 years and we believe that this project will bring great benefit not only to us but also to our customers and local people.’’