THE MORAY economy suffered a major body blow today with the announcement that one of Scotland’s last traditional boat-building yards has been placed in administration with the loss of almost 70 jobs.
The move could finally mean an end to a tradition of shipbuilding in the Moray Firth port of Buckie which dates back to 1903.
The Buckie Shipyard was created in 1995 when the associated Jones and Herd & Mackenzie yards in the town were saved from closure following their sale to the Renfrew-based Lithgows group.
But it was announced today that, despite a move into the renewables industry and a recent turnover of over £3million, the shipyard has been forced into administration. Only six members of the 74 strong staff are being retained.
A spokesman for Joint Administrators Iain Fraser and Tom MacLennan of RSM Tenon said: “One of Scotland’s oldest specialist ship-building businesses, Buckie Shipyard Limited, has been placed in administration. With a history stretching back to 1903, Buckie Shipyard provided a fully integrated service for the design, build, refurbishment and maintenance of boats and marine vessels.
“The company employed 74 staff and its latest turnover was around £3 million. Recent clients included the RNLI, MOD, Orkney Ferries and Harbours, Scottish Sea Farms, Windcat and Talisman Oil. The business had recently diversified into the offshore wind industry, offering engineering, repair and maintenance services, and had supplied aluminium catamarans to Turbine Transfers for offshore work in Belgium.
“The administration has been caused by severe cash flow problems stemming from unsustainable costs, a marked contraction in demand and intensive price-led competition.”
He added: “Joint Administrators Iain Fraser and Tom MacLennan will now wind down and then close the business, whilst marketing the assets for sale.”
Mr Fraser said: “The directors and staff have worked long and hard to secure a future for the company however the financial pressures meant that administration was the only option. It is therefore with great regret that 68 jobs have been made redundant with immediate effect, with the balance of six being retained in the short term to assist with the winding down process. We will liaise with relevant organisations to provide staff with as much support as possible with the redundancy process. We will also now market the assets of the business for sale.”
Councillor John Cowe, the chairman of Moray Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, said he was greatly saddened by the news. He said: “My heart goes out to the staff at the shipyard,” he said.“This is devastating news for them. I hope that the administrators can resolve the situation promptly, meanwhile the council will do all that it can to support the staff affected.”
He stressed that, despite the announcement, Buckie harbour had a bright future. Said Mr Cowe: “The harbour has great potential in the renewables industry and is ideally placed to provide a wide range of support services to other offshore sectors. Moray Council has been and will continue to work with interested parties and partners to help Buckie to realise its full potential.”
Angus Robertson, the Moray MP, said: “This news is a very worrying development in Buckie and I sincerely hope that the administration process can result in a new start for the company and not a loss of an important business in the town. Buckie Shipyard has a long history in the east of Moray with its prominent role in Buckie Harbour and it will be a difficult time for the 68 workforce whose jobs are affected by this decision.
“With the prospect of good renewables related work on the horizon I hope that investors will see the strong potential that I believe the yard and the harbour has and I will now be meeting with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to see what can be done to help get the best outcome from this situation.”
And Gordon McDonald, the SNP councillor for the town, said: “The changes that have occurred in the fishing industry over the last 30 years with bigger and bigger boats and a corresponding reduction in smaller vessels has had a significant impact on yards like Buckie and this news is clearly a shock for the town. The recent loss of RNLI work has also been significant.
“The public bodies in Moray such as The Moray Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise will, I am sure, work together in an effort to get the best possible outcome in the coming weeks for the employees affected and for the town as whole.”