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BiFab future looks in doubt as Scottish Government pulls support for firm

Workers look out over the yard at BiFab in Methil
Workers look out over the yard at BiFab in Methil

The future of Scottish manufacturer Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab) hangs in the balance after the Scottish Government confirmed it has pulled support for the firm.

The move is understood to have resulted in the collapse of a lifeline deal to provide North Sea turbine jackets and placed future work at the firm’s yards in jeopardy.

BiFab’s Canadian owners DF Barnes said the removal of assurances from the Scottish Government made any contract to provide eight turbine jackets for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm “very challenging”.

It is understood the multi-million pound deal with developer EDF Renewables and Italian firm Saipem would have provided work at the firm’s Arnish, Methil and Burntisland yards.

A spokesman for the firm said said: “BiFab can confirm that following a decision by the Scottish Government it can no longer provide assurances for the NnG jacket fabrication contract and the company has informed EDF and Saipem that it can’t provide the required assurances for the work.

“BiFab’s board of directors is now considering the path forward for the company”.

GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith described the move by the Scottish Government as “scandalous”.

Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty added: “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.”

BiFab was rescued from the brink of administration by the Scottish Government in a £34 million agreement in 2017 before being purchased by Canadian firm DF Barnes in April 2018, although hundreds of jobs were shed.

A loan facility of £15 million was also provided to support working capital.

The firm at one time employed almost 1,400 staff.

EDF Renewables, the developer of the £2 billion NnG project off the coast of Fife, confirmed the receipt of a letter explaining BiFab’s situation.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: “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.

“No decisions have been made.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it had been “working collaboratively” alongside BiFab Board, EDF and Saipem to find a solution which would allow for the delivery of the NnG contract in Scotland.

But she added: “The Scottish Government can only financially support BiFab, or any other commercial enterprise, in so far as a commercial investor would do the same.

“Without majority shareholder investment in the company or yards we have exhausted the options for what financial support we can provide legally.”

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