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New BiFab owner plans to bring 600 jobs to Fife

BiFab unions
Workers at BiFab.

The new owner of BiFab plans to bring more than 600 new jobs to Fife.

Infrastrata has acquired the Methil and Arnish yards and other assets of the collapsed Kingdom manufacturer Burntisland Fabrication (Bifab).

It has immediately saved 29 jobs, with workers brought back from furlough to maintain the sites.

Plans to hire 1,000 workers

Infrastrata have ambitious plans to create up to 1,000 new jobs across the sites.

The BiFab yard in Methil.

A company spokesman said: “We are projecting over 400 new jobs at the Arnish site and over 600 new jobs in Methil with additional apprentices at both sites.

“We are keen to employ locally and will work with local training establishments to ensure we have an adequately skilled workforce.”

Name connected to Titanic comes to Fife

BiFab entered administration in December after a Scottish Government decision to remove support for the ailing firm meant the loss of a key contract for wind turbine jackets for the NnG windfarm.

The deal does not include the Burntisland site in Fife.

The Titanic.

The two yards will trade under the Harland & Wolff brand, which also has facilities in Belfast and Appledore.

Harland & Wolff is famous for having built the majority of the ocean liners for the White Star Line, including the Titanic.

Welcome from unions

In a joint statement GMB Scotland and Unite Scotland welcomed the announcement but demanded concrete actions by the Scottish and UK Governments to strategically support the offshore wind sector.

Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty and GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said: “It is testimony to our members and their communities who have fought hard to keep these yards alive.

offshore wind development
The Vattenfall European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre near Aberdeen

“We look forward to working with the company to ensure it is primed to win contracts for the offshore wind sector and to having a positive working relationship underpinned by the Fair Work principles.

“We have always believed that the BiFab yards, and indeed yards and ports all over Scotland, are uniquely placed to capture the benefits of the offshore wind sector.

“However, the story so far has been one of government failure – thousands of jobs and billions of pounds have been outsourced around the world when Scottish communities should have been benefitting from these contracts.

“Now the Scottish and UK Governments have been given a reprieve and they need to step-up and support the new ownership.”

Multiple fabrication sites

Infrastrata said Arnish and Methil would have “particular regard to renewable and defence projects”, describing Scotland as a “hotbed” for major wind farm projects.

The London-headquartered firm pointed to growth in the wider UK offshore wind market, with the likes of BP and RWE winning leases in the latest Crown Estate round this week for the Irish Sea and Dogger Bank area, respectively.

BiFab public inquiry
A worker looks out over the yard at BiFab in Methil.

Taking on the Bifab sites would also increase the “probability-to-win rate” by offering clients multiple fabrication facilities, Infrastrata said.

It will pay up to £850,000 for the BiFab assets. Payments will be made in two phases: £650,000 in cash and a further £200,000 on certain conditions being met.

The second payment will occur if group turnover exceeds £74 million over the next 24 months or if consolidated turnover for the Methil and Arnish sites exceeds £40m over that time.

Important acquisition

Chief executive John Wood said: “I am very pleased to have completed the acquisition of the assets of Bifab, which is in keeping with our stated strategy of capitalising on complementary opportunities when they present themselves.

“Whilst the total consideration is not material, relative to our balance sheet size and market cap, it nevertheless is a very important and highly strategic acquisition for InfraStrata.”

Bifab’s Methil yard.

The UK-based natural gas infrastructure firm acquired the Belfast and Appledore sites of Harland and Wolff over the last two years from administrators, similarly targeting renewables, oil and gas and defence projects.

Mr Wood added: “With this acquisition, we now have a footprint in Scotland, which is the hotbed for major wind farm projects as well as for shipbuilding programmes.”

The new owners are seeking to enter a 12-year lease for the Bifab yards, expected to complete over the next four weeks.

Workforce have important role to play

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said the BiFab workforce has an “important role to play in the future of manufacturing in Scotland”.

“I look forward to working with the new owner as it forges a new future for the company.

“This is also welcome news for the local communities in Fife and the Western Isles.

“The Scottish Government will also engage with Forth Ports, the owner of the Burntisland yard, to help secure the best possible outcome for that yard.”

‘Myth’ of Scotland’s renewables revolution

Deloitte was appointed administrator of BiFab in December.

Bifab was previously owned by Canadian company DF Barnes and lost several hotly-contested contracts for Scottish wind farms.

BiFab’s Arnish yard on the Isle of Lewis.

The Scottish Government invested some £37.4m in order to save the business from closure in 2017. This was to support delivery of SSE’s Beatrice Offshore Wind project.

Holyrood leveraged that into a 32.4% stake in the business, and also provided an additional £15m loan facility.

However, in October the government said it had “exhausted the options” for financial support.

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