Isles MSP hopeful of jobs revival at mothballed fabrication yard in Outer Hebrides

The mothballed Lewis Offshore yard at Arnish near Stornoway.
The mothballed Lewis Offshore yard at Arnish near Stornoway.

New job hopes have been voiced for a key mothballed fabrication yard in the Outer Hebrides.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said that he was “optimistic” that employment would again flow at the Arnish plant on Lewis.

The island politician was speaking after meeting with Sean Power, the vice-president for business development of DF Barnes, to discuss the company’s vision for the future of Arnish.

He revealed the Canadian company, which now runs the yard outside Stornoway – and other sites in Fife – has just bid for a major project.

In July the skeleton team at the sites was cut further back, as redundancy notices issued in May kicked in.

The GMB union said the yards were “effectively closed.”

Only seven part time staff have been kept on across the three Scottish sites to ensure security, with 12 Fife-based managers fully retained.

But Dr Allan yesterday express his hopes for the future of Arnish – which saw its workforce virtually disappear in February with the completion of its last order – after meeting with Sean Power, Vice President for Business Development of DF Barnes.

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He said: “I am very encouraged by the commitment shown by the company in their efforts to bring work back to Arnish, with a bid for a significant new project being submitted in the past few days. I am also grateful for the reassurance that the yard is a key part of their plans.

“There does seem to be a recognition of the huge asset now at the company’s disposal, in terms of the skills and attributes of the local workforce.

“The workforce has been absolutely key to the survival of BiFab during its most difficult period, and was I very happy to update a representative of the former works committee at Arnish on these developments.

“Arnish plays a significant role in the economy of Lewis and it is difficult to imagine the future without it.

“As the local MSP for the area, I have continued to stress that Arnish is uniquely placed to capitalise on future manufacturing opportunities in the expanding Scottish renewables sector.

“There is now every reason to be optimistic for the future and for jobs to return.”

Vital offer of loan

The Scottish government helped previous owners BiFab in November last year when it offered to lend the engineering firm up to £15m.

The offer helped to unlock a financial package from BiFab’s business partners which lifted the threat of administration.

The firm employed 1,400 people across its at yards at Burntisland in Fife and Arnish.

Some 160 people worked at the Lewis yard towards the end of last year.

Most of the work done at the sites related to offshore renewable energy schemes, including building components for the £2.6bn Beatrice Offshore Windfarm in the Moray Firth.

Canadian company JV Driver, through its subsidiary DF Barnes, has now acquired a controlling stake in BiFab.

The Scottish Government has a minority share in the firm.