One of Moray’s most historic industries is poised for a major revival after a firm vowed to invest more than £1million.
Macduff Shipyards has pledged to redevelop a crumbling harbour site in the town to breathe fresh life into the boat-building industry.
The firm’s existing workforce in the town is expected to double in the process, with apprentices also taken on to secure the next generation of boat-builders.
Yesterday the deal was hailed as bringing “hustle and bustle” back to Buckie harbour.
New vessels being launched into the port used to be a weekly occurrence when three workshops dominated the town – but last week was the first time in 15 years a new trawler entered the water.
Last night John Watt, managing director of Macduff Shipyards, revealed the company’s expansion in Buckie was being driven by a revival in the fishing industry.
He said: “It’s on the up. We do quite a lot of work with fish farms as well as fishing boats and they are all very busy at the moment – the stocks are healthy.
“Our order books are full of fishing boats at the moment. It’s being driven by the cheaper fuel prices.
“There’s a lot of potential in Buckie harbour. It’s sheltered, there’s a lot of space and there’s reasonably deep water. It’s got great potential but is being under utilised at the moment.”
The vast hanger and slipways have fallen into disrepair since Buckie Shipyard Ltd, which was formed in 1903, folded four years ago with the loss of 68 jobs.
The new owners intend to pour money into the site to get it operational within the next year, bringing two slipways back into use.
The project will create up to 25 jobs as well as apprenticeship opportunities.
Buckie councillor Gordon Cowie is excited the port could soon recapture some of the magic from its heyday.
He said: “The whole town used to be bustling with shipbuilding. This is going to have huge knock-on impacts on the harbour and the rest of the town.
“Once it’s up and running all the offices along the harbour will come more into demand.”
Fellow Buckie councillor Sonya Warren believes apprenticeship opportunities will benefit youngsters.
She added: “It’ll be fantastic for them to learn traditional skills at home. It was heartbreaking when the shipyards closed, that career path was lost to a generation.
“It’s going to broaden the range of talent we have in Buckie and the wider area.”
Last week Macduff Shipyards launched the 62ft fishing vessel, the £1.7million Asteria. The new facilities are expected to cater for launches and repairs of larger vessels that cannot be done elsewhere in the north-east at the moment.
Buckie remains on the shortlist to become a base for offshore wind farms being built in the Moray Firth and the site had been marketed to the renewable energy sector.
Mr Watt added: “We had a bit of an eye on the future when we are looking at it. We’re not taking this on relying on offshore energy. If it takes off then it’s a bonus for us.
“The north-east is a centre of excellence for ship repairs. Vessels come from all over the UK to get repaired at Peterhead, right round to Buckie.”
Macduff Shipyards has bought the former Buckie Shipyard Ltd shed closest to Rathburn Street. The other hanger remains owned by Moray Council.
John Cowe, chairman of the council’s economic development committee added: “Building ships is part of Buckie’s heritage and it is great to know this tradition will continue.
“The acquisition of the shipyard will enhance the prospects of the harbour area and allow it to diversify to take advantage of the massive offshore renewables opportunities.”