North-east fishing fleets are poised to receive a boost with the installation of a new Buckie Harbour ice plant.
The Moray port has been without a facility for more than a decade after the previous tower was demolished in 2009 after serving crews for four decades.
Now Netherlands-based firm Recom Ice Systems has been awarded a £110,000 contract to install the replacement.
Moray Council expects work to fit the equipment at the port’s fish market will be completed early next year.
Ice is currently transported to the town in lorries for crews to preserve their catches at sea and for sale.
Investment in the new Buckie Harbour ice plant has been welcomed as a show of support for local and visiting fishing fleets.
Gordon Cowie, co-chairman of the port’s advisory board, said: “It’s great news for the harbour, the fishing boats have been waiting a long time for this.
“This will save the boats having to go to other ports to get ice. It’s going to help the local crews and hopefully attract some visiting crews if they know there’s going to be ice available.
“It’s good news we’ve got to this point now, unfortunately it’s taken longer than expected because the tendering process has taken longer due to Covid-19.”
Sonya Warren, co-chairwoman of the advisory board, said: “It’s going to make it easier for crews to preserve their catches when the land it or they are out at sea, which makes Buckie a far more attractive and functional port to use.”
Investment in the new Buckie Harbour ice plant was first announced in summer 2018.
The plans were initially left in limbo when Moray Council had a funding bid to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund rejected.
However, the authority later secured a £102,000 boost from a share of Crown Estate proceeds to allow the project to proceed.
Recom specialise in flake ice machines and have previously been awarded contracts to install an artificial snow plant at Nevis Range near Fort William and an ice plant at the port in Stornoway to support fishing fleets in the Outer Hebrides.
A Moray Council spokesman explained talks would be held with the contractor over the coming days to plan the Buckie Harbour ice plant project.
He added: “We anticipate the works being complete and the plant fully operational by spring.”