THIRTEEN years ago, the lifeblood of the Moray Firth town of Macduff was all but sucked out of the coastal community at a stroke when it was excluded from the list of 19 designated landing ports in Scotland.
The exclusion, announced by the government to curb a growing market in clandestine landings of “black fish,” forced most local boats to transfer their landings to the approved ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead – marking the demise of a thriving fishing industry which was worth £2 million a year.
Now a fresh drive will begin to help revive its fading fortunes by marketing Macduff as an operational base and service port for the oil and gas industry and the offshore renewables sector.
Banff and Macduff Community Council, in association with Banff, Macduff and District Business Association, and with the backing of Aberdeenshire Council, which owns the harbour, is behind the ambitious plans.
Ian Williams, a semi-retired marine consultant who arrived in the area six years ago, has been appointed project leader to drive the marketing forward.He said: “Macduff is not the thriving port it once was, and we would love to change that around again. And Macduff has had very little exposure to the offshore industry to date.
“I have already conducted a loose survey with some people in the industry – both oil and gas, and the wind industry – and most people had never heard of Macduff. So the main aim of the project is to change all that and get Macduff on the map and to ensure we’re at least considered.
“The local economy has changed as a result of the decline of the fishing industry, and this project is one small part of creating a more diversified business base. The purpose is to try and attract outside businesses to use the existing capabilities of the area, by marketing these facilities to an industry that has, to date, largely not been a traditional customer.
“The first aim of the project is to market Macduff as an offshore service port – large vessels would anchor off the harbour and receive services from onshore businesses, such as crew changes, stores and spares, or more specialist technicians.”
He said the first target of the marketing would be the firms which own the “shuttle tankers” which operate between North Sea oil fields and discharge ports around north-west Europe. “We know we can’t accommodate larger vessels but we can take 60-metre vessels to start with.”
He said the project team also had its sights set on the developing renewables market.
“We believe that Macduff is an ideal place as a shore base for the wind farms that are going to be constructed in the Moray Firth. Macduff can offer virtually all the facilities and resources that such operations need.”
Mr Williams added: “This is only one project to turn the town around. This is just one idea of many and it isn’t going to happen overnight.”