Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Arnish Fabrication Yard

There are days that you get up - and wish you had stayed in bed. This is one of them.

Within the last hour, the BBC Ticker coughed up the announcement that the Arnish Fabrication Yard is in financial difficulties. Its owner, Camcal, has initiated talks with its shareholders and investors as to its financial future.

Just for reference, the Arnish Yard is the place that fabricates elements for renewable energy projects. Earlier this year, segments for a Portuguese wave energy project were produced there. Towers for a wind energy project on the Beatrice platform in the Moray Firth (near Inverness) have recently been produced here. Following the completion of this project, a number of Polish workers were laid off; 90 people remain employed there.

Until September, the yard will be working on towers for windfarms in Holland and Germany as well as a small project here in Lewis.

The Operations Manager at the yard told BBC Online that it was quite ironic for the plant to be in difficulty whilst renewable energy is flavour of the moment.

It should be noted that this is about par for the course for the Arnish yard. Following its closure as an oil fabrication yard, it was taken over and asset stripped. It has opened and closed for short term contracts on a regular basis, and local workers are reluctant to fill vacancies there as they arise, as there is no guarantee for a long-term contract. This is the reason for Polish workers having to be drafted in to fill the gaps. Those that did not apply late last year for the 100 vacancies probably feel vindicated in their decision.

Although the Arnish Yard and the Lewis Windfarms have been mooted as the panacea for the Western Isles financial and economic woes, current developments are hardly encouraging for sustaining that view. A decision from the Scottish Executive is not far off regarding the North Lewis windfarm and the Eishken Windfarm. Should the go-ahead for the windfarms be given, and Arnish not there, I think Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are severely out of reckoning, as they were banking on about 400 jobs to be generated by the project, many of them over at Arnish.

An announcement is expected by the end of the week. ]]>

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