Scotland threw away 'global leadership' role in offshore wind, claim BiFab owners

The demise of the BiFab yard in Fife is down to a failure of government to ensure offshore turbines located off Scotland’s coast are built by home-grown firms, its Canadian owners have said.
BiFab yard in MethilBiFab yard in Methil
BiFab yard in Methil

DF Barnes bosses said it was “shocking” that BiFab should lose out on a multi-billion contract for turbines being built a “stone’s throw” from their yard.

The law in Scotland needs to be strengthened, they told MSPs, to ensure that energy giants must guarantee work to firms in Scotland for turbines which will be located in the country.

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Financial strain for BiFab after Scottish Government says it has 'no legal route...
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The firm came under fire from Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop recently over a failure to invest in the yard as the Government - also a major shareholder in BiFab - announced it would no longer support it.

But vice-president Sean Power and and Jason Fudge, president of DF Barnes, warned the real problem was there was no protection for local supply chains that would guarantee work for Scots firms to build the turbines.

Scotland was described today as a "world leader in renewable energy and a world loser in generating jobs" in the sector. So far, no offshore turbines located in Scotland have been built in the country.

Mr Fudge told Holyrood’s Economy committee today the Kincardine wind project included an undertaking to build "100 per cent" of the turbines in the UK, but in the end they were all built in Spain.

He warned Scotland could not compete with other Middle East and Asian yards on price, nor European nations, which appear to flout state aid rules.

"BiFab had numerous multi-billion pound projects that were going to be installed a stones throw from their own facilities," he said.

"Our view, which was shared by government at the time, was that BiFab had a competitive advantage and should be able to pursue and be successful on those projects. We did that vigorously.”

He added: "The major projects it was unsuccessful in was nothing to do with the level of investment into the business or onto the yard. It had to do with foreign, international, low-cost competition that in many cases was state financed.

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"That is the single largest factor that had led to the situation that we currently have with BiFab.

"It's shocking for me looking at this as the president of a company which has invested a lot of time and effort and resources in BiFab, also from our parent company in western Canada.

"The Scottish and UK supply chains were set up for success to take on a global leadership position in offshore wind from all the success it had in the oil and gas industry. Scotland was a world leader."

Mr Fudge added: "Unfortunately it didn't have the necessary supply chain protections."

He described the financing for turbine projects as "onerous", adding they were led by investment firms which require "huge amounts" of insurance and warranties.

"The only way ultimately now in what we've seen in the past two years that any businesses operating and wanting to be successful in the offshore wind sector is going to need support from Government in terms of its endeavours and its pursuits to win contracts,” he said. “It needs it, it needs protections from government."

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