A wind farm deal that would have seen 200 workers return to BiFab’s yards is on the verge of collapse putting the future of the company in doubt.
BiFab had previously been selected by the developers of the Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind project to provide “at least” eight foundation jackets – used to anchor the turbines to the seabed.
However this deal is now in doubt after BiFab owner DF Barnes accused the Scottish Government of pulling its support.
It comes just weeks after BiFab also lost out in a bid to win work on the Seagreen offshore wind project off the coast of Angus – with the work instead going to China.
DF Barnes admitted this now made the award of the multi-million pound contract “very challenging”.
A company spokesperson said: “BiFab can confirm that following a decision by the Scottish Government that it can no longer provide assurances for the NnG jacket fabrication contract, the company has informed EDF & Saipem that it can’t provide the required assurances for the work.
“BiFab recognizes that this makes an award of the contract very challenging.
“The company and its partners have worked extremely hard to secure this important contract.
“Unfortunately, the recent decision by SSE to award work to Asia over Scotland for their Seagreen project, combined with NnG project delays due to COVID-19, have contributed to this difficult decision.
“BiFab’s board of directors is now considering the path forward for the company.”
EDF Renewables, who are one of the NnG developers alongside Saipem, confirmed they had received the letter from BiFab today but said no final decision had been made.
A spokesperson said: “If a supplier becomes unable to meet its obligations under an agreement, we have a duty to all parties involved in NnG to consider the most appropriate steps to ensure the successful delivery of the project. No decisions have been made.”
BiFab was rescued from the brink of administration by the Scottish Government in a £34 million agreement in 2017 before being purchased by Canadian firm DF Barnes in April 2018, although hundreds of jobs were shed.
The Scottish Government also provided a loan facility of £15m has also been provided to support working capital.
Union bosses accused Scottish Government ministers of “walking away” from supporting the Fife firm to win the contract.
In a joint statement GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “It looks like the Scottish Government ministers have walked away from our best chance of building a meaningful offshore wind manufacturing sector, and in doing so has extinguished the hopes of communities in Fife and Lewis who were banking their future prosperity on it.
“It’s a scandalous end to a decade which started with promises of a ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ supporting 28,000 full-time jobs in offshore wind and now finishes in mothballed fabrication yards and no prospect of any contracts or jobs on the horizon.
“Both the First Minister and the Prime Minister promised a green jobs revolution but they didn’t tell anyone it would be exported, and it all amounts to broken promises to workers who needed these yards to be thriving instead of dying.
“The fabrication contracts for NnG, just like those on the Seagreen project, will be manufactured by the rest of the world.
“Two projects worth a total of £5 billion, requiring 168 turbine jackets to power our future, and not even one will be built in Scotland – everyone needs to let that sink in.
“This is what political failure looks like and people are right to be absolutely furious.”
The Scottish Government said it had been working collaboratively alongside the BiFab Board, EDF and Saipem to try to find a solution which would allow for the delivery of the NnG contract in Scotland.
A spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government can only financially support BiFab, or any other commercial enterprise, in so far as a commercial investor would do the same.
“Without majority shareholder investment in the company or yards we have exhausted the options for what financial support we can provide legally.
“We will continue to do everything possible to support the business while recognising the need for us to remain in line with State Aid regulations and we will be engaging with trades unions and local representatives in the coming days.”
BiFab, which at one time employed almost 1,400 staff, has yards in Methil, Burntisland and Arnish.