New talks to breathe life into Fife Energy Park

One of the huge jackets built in one of BiFab's last big contracts. Pic: Jurek Morkis
One of the huge jackets built in one of BiFab's last big contracts. Pic: Jurek Morkis

Discussions are ongoing to secure new contracts and bring back a BiFab workforce to Fife Energy Park later this year.

That was the message issued by Fife Council business officers responding to concerns raised at Levenmouth Area Committee last week.

Last year, the energy park at Methil was heaving with 2,500 BiFab workers - but today the site stands eerily quiet.

“Is BiFab dead in the water? Because I don’t see much productivity there,” commented Cllr John O’Brien.

In response, Ross Mackenzie, lead officer (investment) said: “Quite a lot of work is going on with BiFab at the moment .

“We are supporting them to find new orders for their order books and hope to see people starting back at the site later in 2016.

“Rest assured we are working with the company to try and get new contracts.”

The Burntisland company paid off around 2300 contractors and staff last year following a decline in the industry forced by falling oil prices and also large contracts regularly being awarded to overseas competitors.

Cllr Ally Hunter commented that the ‘overseas’ situation was particularly galling given investment was being supported by UK taxpayers.

He also queried why BiFab was fulfilling ‘piecemeal’ contracts rather than complete complex projects.

“It’s a ridiculous situation,” he commented. “We have heard time and time again about the issues surrounding free trade but other countries are getting a far better hit for their industries than we do in the UK.”

He also expressed concern that a boom and bust cycle was hampering long-term prospects of the Levenmouth area.

“Absolutely, it’s very cyclical,” acknowledged Mr Mackenzie, who said BiFab were in discussions with Scottish Enterprise on such matters.

He added Fife Council was helping the firm to improve its infrastructure and meet its aspirations in renewables as well as the core sectors of oil and gas.

Following a suggestion by Cllr Tom Adams that Bifab seek contracts in decomissioning rig platforms, it was revealed discussions were ongoing with a number of Fife companies but the proximity of houses to Fife Energy park was a concern.

Fife Council also agreed to contact Forth Ports after Cllr Charles Haffey suggested out-of-work supply boats for the North Sea oil industry be berthed at Methil Docks instead of Aberdeen.