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Harbour renamed Port of Aberdeen as cost of expansion rises by £50 million

Aberdeen Harbour’s rebrand to Port of Aberdeen marks a new chapter in the port’s almost 900-year history.
Aberdeen Harbour’s rebrand to Port of Aberdeen marks a new chapter in the port’s almost 900-year history.

Aberdeen Harbour Board directors hailed a new brand for the city’s historic port as new figures showed the cost of the expansion has risen by £50 million.

The name “Port of Aberdeen”, which comprises both the main north harbour as well as the new south harbour, was confirmed to guests at the board’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Aberdeen last night.

See pictures from the Port of Aberdeen AGM here.

The port’s delayed expansion project is on track for official opening on 31 October but works on the south harbour will continue through to 2023, the group said.

Port of Aberdeen chief executive Bob Sanguinetti speaks at the port’s AGM at the Music Hall. Photo: Paul Glendell

The trust port added Aberdeen Harbour’s rebrand to Port of Aberdeen marks a new chapter in the port’s almost 900-year history.

When will the new south harbour be finished?

The new harbour in Nigg Bay, known as the south harbour, will be officially open on 31 October, 2022.

But port bosses are confident the expanded harbour will be able to start welcoming ships on a case-by-case basis from early July in what it calls a “soft start”.

Port of Aberdeen, north and south harbour.

However, in a recent review the Aberdeen Harbour Board decided to reintroduce what is known as the west quay.

During the difficulties of the pandemic when work stopped and the harbour’s main contractor Dragados pulled out of the contract in 2020, the board took the “tough” decision to streamline some of the plan.

Now the plan has reverted back to its original scope – but work is not expected to be complete on this until May or June of 2023.

AHB chief executive Bob Sanguinetti said: “It is much better for the port because it means we will finish it in one go rather than have to reopen it.”

He expects work will be about 80% complete when it opens officially in October.

Further, harbour bosses have confirmed that the part of Greyhope Road between the Girdleness Lighthouse and St Fittick’s park, which has been closed during construction phase, will be reopened by the end of the year.

Why has Aberdeen Harbour changed its name?

Aberdeen Harbour is now known as the Port of Aberdeen.

Watch the video:

The name was changed to avoid confusion between the new south harbour and the existing harbour – sometimes referred to as north harbour.

The other reason is it is thought the new name sounds more “commercial”.

The Port of Aberdeen has unveiled a new logo.

Mr Sanguinetti said: “We didn’t come up with the name Port of Aberdeen randomly or in isolation.

“It followed a strategic review we did earlier this year.

“The message is simple – north harbour and south harbour will now become Port of Aberdeen.

“The reason for that is twofold – the first is with south harbour coming online, with north harbour, south harbor, Aberdeen Harbour – it was a matter of which harbour are we talking about? Actually we are talking about the Port of Aberdeen.

A harbour is a place of safe haven for ships.

It is given we provide safe haven to ships but we do much more than that.”

Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive, Port of Aberdeen

“The second reason is a harbour is a place of safe haven for ships. It is a given we provide safe haven to ships but we do much more than that.

“We are a logistics hub and a commercial sector and Port of Aberdeen has a more commercial ring to it.”

Aberdeen Harbour Board will remain the legal name of the port’s governing body.

How much will the new harbour cost?

AHB said the cost of the south harbour expansion project had risen from an original estimate of £350m to £400m.

This is the result of a number of factors including the decision to return to a more ambitious plan that had been shelved during the pandemic.

It was also due to rising costs of raw building materials and labour which added to the final price tag for south harbour – which, when complete, will make Port of Aberdeen the largest berthage port in Scotland.

But bosses insisted the group’s finances remained strong despite a fall in profits in 2021.

What are the numbers?

Company accounts for Aberdeen Harbour Board (AHB) for 2021 showed a 36% slump in pre-tax profits to £9.7m driven mainly by a decrease in oil and gas traffic in a year when the sector was still largely impacted by low prices.

But turnover for the year amounted to £33.5m, an increase of 1.5% compared with 2020.

Just over 6,000 vessels entered the port last year, representing a 2% decrease in arrival numbers compared with 2020.

The decline in visits was a result of the “smaller tonnage classifications, particularly focused on oil and gas supply vessels”, adding that larger tonnage vessels numbers, including general goods and dive support vessels, “remained less volatile”, according to the report.

Will Port of Aberdeen become a ‘green freeport’?

The port is also still pursuing a bid, jointly with Peterhead Harbour, Aberdeen International Airport and other stakeholders, to be designated one of two “green freeports” in Scotland.

AHB said this status would transform the region into a “powerhouse of new trade and investment, and generate thousands high-skilled, green jobs and opportunities for those that need them most”.

Up to nine port groups submitted “notes of interest” to the Scottish Government last year when it called for greenport bids, with strong contenders having emerged in Edinburgh and Rosyth led by Forth Ports and a consortium bidding for the status in Cromarty Firth and Inverness.

A decision is expected this summer once the bidding process concludes 20 June.

Port of Aberdeen boss Bob Sanguinetti at the south harbour. Photo Wullie Marr / DCT Media

Mr Sanguinetti said: “The green freeport designation does two things: first, it creates an environment where it is easier to do business, easier to set up business and easier to attract business.

“The more attractive we can make it, whether it is through tax incentives, easier planning permission processes – we will end up with more jobs and greater prosperity.

“The second reason is getting green freeport status from both the UK Government and the Scottish Government  – because it is a joint decision – is a very clear statement of intent and support for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.”

New era for the north-east

Mr Sanguinetti added: “We are building on our history and heritage as we enter a new era as Port of Aberdeen.

“The city is perfectly located to be Europe’s energy transition capital, and our £400m expansion project will be at the heart of the development of high potential sectors, including offshore wind and green hydrogen.

Green freeport status for north-east Scotland will transform the region and deliver unmatched value for Scotland.

“Green freeport status for north-east Scotland will transform the region and deliver unmatched value for Scotland.

“A successful bid would accelerate new, sustainable energy and innovation, deliver a managed and just transition that leads the nation to net zero and, most importantly, create high-skilled, green jobs across a diverse range of industries.”

Chairman Alistair Mackenzie said: “The progress at our South Harbour expansion site has been remarkable.

AHB chairman Alistair Mackenzie. Photo Paul Glendell

“The site looks different every time I visit, which is down to the unwavering commitment from all those working on the project.

“I would like to thank our team and contractors for their constant hard work.”

Following the board’s latest strategic review, led by Sanguinetti who took up his post in September 2021, AHB said its new vision for the next five to 10 years is to “become Scotland’s premier net zero port, offering world class facilities and services, at the heart of the nation’s energy transition efforts”.

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