A LEADING seafood firm has failed in an attempt to sue the designers and builders of its north-east processing plant.
Pelagic Freezing launched an action at the Court of Session against Lovie Construction and consultancy firm the Grontmij Group about the condition of its Peterhead factory.
Pelagic claimed that the two firms were in breach of contract over the construction and design of the Castle Street premises, which opened for business in 2002.
At the time, the new plant was hailed as a major boost to the local herring and mackerel industry, but the building has had problems with leaks since day one.
At first, bosses at Pelagic Freezing noticed minor leaks, but were told they were simply teething problems which could be fixed easily.
In October 2003, general manager David Fasken met representatives of Lovie Construction and Grontmij, who assured him the leaks and problems with roof sheeting had been resolved.
But at Hogmanay that year, a storm ripped a hole in the roof. Staff returned from the festive break to find water had flooded into the western corner of the building.
An investigation into the damage found that the fixings in the roof were inadequate.
Grontmij told Pelagic directors that the damage was caused by a latent defect, not adverse weather, and would therefore be covered under a 25-year warranty from a company called Rigidal Industries, which manufactured the sheeting for the roof.
Assurances were given that the problems would be fixed.
However, water continued to pour in at various points of the building.
By 2006, there were four major leaks – three over the de-stacker and one above the canteen.
Two years later, the boardroom sprung a leak, while water had come down into the canteen and shorted-out electrical equipment.
There were also serious leaks in the eastern side of the plant, and corrosion was found around the fixings.
Then in 2008, the Grontmij Group received an e-mail from Rigidal Systems, which said the factory was supplied by sister company Rigidal Industries, which had stopped trading in 2002.
Rigidal Systems said it had no liability for material supplied by Rigidal Industries.
Pelagic Freezing spoke to its lawyers for the first time after learning that the company had not been protected by warranty. However, its attempt to claim damages has been unsuccessful.
Court of Session judge Lord Menzies ruled that too much time had passed to make a breach of contract claim.
In his findings, he said: “I am forced to the conclusion that the pursuer’s right of action in this case was extinguished by the expiry of the short negative prescription – the standard period of five years allowed for breach of contract claims – in January 2004.”
No one at Pelagic Freezing was available for comment last night. In 2008, the company merged with Peterhead-based J&J Denholm and processor Alexander Buchan to form Denholm Seafoods.
The consolidated firm has a workforce of about 250.