Row over ‘scandal’ of Scots green jobs going abroad as Bifab ‘loses’ cut of major wind farm contract
A fresh row has emerged over Scots firms losing out on wind farm revolution jobs after it union leaders manufacturing firm Burntisland Fabrications (Bifab) has failed to get a slice of a major multi-million offshore wind farm contract.
The Herald has previously revealed that no final decisions had yet been confirmed over whether Canadian-owned Bifab, with yards in Arnish and Fife, would get a cut of the action in the creation of one of the country’s biggest offshore wind farms, the £2 billion Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG).
The unions say a deal for Bifab to build the 54 steel foundation jackets which anchor the turbines to the seabed has collapsed. It has been proposed that eight might be built in Scotland with the rest being constructed in south east Asia.
It comes as the Scottish government declined to provide “assurances” to BiFab covering the supply of foundations for the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm.
The company said it has informed project developer EDF Renewables and lead foundations contractor Saipem of the situation. The government is a minority shareholder in the fabrication company.
“BiFab can confirm that following a decision by the Scottish Government that it can no longer provide assurances for the NnG jacket fabrication contract, the company has informed EDF and Saipem that it can’t provide the required assurances for the work,” said BiFab.
“BiFab recognises that this makes an award of the contract very challenging. The company and its partners have worked extremely hard to secure this important contract.”
It added: “BiFab’s board of directors is now considering the path forward for the company.”
In 2010, a Scottish Government report stated the offshore wind sector alone offered the potential for 28,000 direct jobs and a further 20,000 jobs in related industries, as well as £7.1bn investment in Scotland by 2020.
Responding to the collapse, GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scotland secretary Pat Rafferty said: “It looks like the Scottish Government ministers have walked away from our best chance of building a meaningful offshore wind manufacturing sector, and in doing so has extinguished the hopes of communities in Fife and Lewis who were banking their future prosperity on it.
“It’s a scandalous end to a decade which started with promises of a ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ supporting 28,000 full-time jobs in offshore wind and now finishes in mothballed fabrication yards and no prospect of any contracts or jobs on the horizon.
“Both the First Minister and the Prime Minister promised a green jobs revolution but they didn’t tell anyone it would be exported, and it all amounts to broken promises to workers who needed these yards to be thriving instead of dying.
“The fabrication contracts for NnG, just like those on the Seagreen project, will be manufactured by the rest of the world. Two projects worth a total of £5 billion, requiring 168 turbine jackets to power our future, and not even one will be built in Scotland – everyone needs to let that sink in.
“This is what political failure looks like and people are right to be absolutely furious.”
EDF Renewables confirmed the communication with BiFab but said no decision on the contract has been made yet.
“If a supplier becomes unable to meet its obligations under an agreement, we have a duty to all parties involved in NnG to consider the most appropriate steps to ensure the successful delivery of the project,” said a spokeswoman.
The £640m Saipem turbine jackets deal will mean BiFab yards in Arnish and Fife continuing to lose out in the “green manufacturing revolution” getting no more than an estimated 15% of the valuable and crucial manufacturing work. Saipem will also supply and install an additional two jackets for offshore substation.
BiFab, which employs around 1,400 workers was rescued from the brink of administration by the Scottish Government with a loan valued at £37.4m, but then was purchased by Canadian firm DF Barnes, although hundreds of jobs were shed.
So far the only new confirmed NnG jobs Scotland would gain is 50 over 25 years, at a new maintenance base at Eyemouth harbour.
The Herald revealed in January that Paris-based GE Renewable Energy, a division of the Boston-based multinational General Electric, confirmed it had been awarded a major NnG project to oversee the design, supply, construction and commissioning of onshore and offshore wind substations.
And it is working in a “consortium arrangement” with two Dutch-based companies platform construction experts HSM Offshore BV and engineering company IV-One on the offshore wind farm project which is now being jointly run by French state energy giant EDF and state owned Irish energy company ESB.
In November, the Herald revealed Scotland had already missed out on hundreds of millions of pounds of work in the creation of the wind farm off the Fife coast, before the latest development with unions furious at the way NnG is being handled.
It emerged that Scotland had lost other important NnG project work, worth hundreds of millions of pounds to England, Germany, Finland and France.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have been working collaboratively alongside the BiFab Board, EDF and Saipem to try to find a solution which would allow for the delivery of the NnG contract in Scotland. ”
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