All images courtesy of Kishorn Port Ltd

On 15 January 2019, an offshore titan arrived at Kishorn Port on Scotland’s north-western coast. Diamond Offshore’s Ocean GreatWhite, the world’s largest semi-submersible drilling rig, has secured anchorage in the shelter of Loch Kishorn while it mobilises for a drilling contract west of Shetland.

For Kishorn Port Ltd (KPL), the joint venture between construction firm Leiths Group and logistics group Ferguson Transport & Shipping that manages the port, Ocean GreatWhite’s arrival is an important moment.

Kishorn Port upgrades

The rig’s arrival marks the first major contract secured by KPL, a milestone that the company hopes will serve as a launching point to reintroduce Kishorn Port to the offshore industries.

Kishorn Port played a prominent role as a manufacturing and fabrication hub in the early years of the UK’s North Sea oil and gas boom, employing more than 3,000 workers at its peak in the late 1970s. But the facility suffered as the east coast became Scotland’s go-to hub for North Sea producers. Ocean GreatWhite’s arrival represents the port’s first contract since 1992, when its dry dock was briefly revived to cast two 2,500t concrete caissons to support the Skye Bridge.

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“This is the first major contract secured by KPL and hopefully will be the catalyst for the wider engagement of the port and dry dock in the oil and gas sector as exploration and production moves westward into the deeper waters of the North Atlantic,” says KPL director Simon Russell.

Kishorn Port upgrades

KPL was formed by Leiths and Ferguson in 2008 to promote and oversee the regeneration of Kishorn’s neglected yard and dry dock, and to re-engage with the offshore oil and gas sector in the region, as well as marine renewable energy developers.

“Major infrastructure works have been undertaken over the last two years,” says Russell. “These include the fabrication of new gate seals; strengthening of the two abutments; a concreted access ramp driven into the floor of the dry dock; cathodic protection of all steel retaining structures; and a full set of dewatering pumping equipment installed and the gates verified by Bureau Veritas. KPL is currently installing safety fencing to the gates and quayside and a dry dock drainage system, including oil interceptors.”

Kishorn Port upgrades

Construction of the Ninian Central Platform at Kishorn is the largest project ever to have been carried out at the site. The project took place during the port’s heyday in the late 1970s while it was under the management of the now-defunct Howard Doris Ltd.

The project saw the construction of a 600,000t circular concrete gravity structure, 140m in diameter, to form the basis for the Ninian Central Platform, which CNR International now operates in the East Shetland Basin. Construction of the platform involved thousands of workers – locally dubbed the Kishorn Commandos – who were housed on two retired cruise vessels floating on Loch Kishorn. Once completed, the platform was the world’s largest man-made moveable object at the time.

Kishorn Port upgrades

Ocean GreatWhite was towed from Singapore to Kishorn via Las Palmas in the Canary Islands over a five-month period, supported by offshore supply vessel the Alp Defender. KPL director Alasdair Ferguson, who visited the rig in Las Palmas while it was in transit to Scotland, said: “I couldn’t fail to be impressed by the sheer scale of the Ocean GreatWhite. We hope that the berthing and support to the rig at Kishorn will herald a new era of engagement in the oil and gas industry at Kishorn.”

“The rig is being mobilised for a drilling contract west of Shetland commencing March 2019,” adds Russell. “Stevedoring and marine support is being delivered by Ferguson Transport & Shipping, one of the two partners of KPL.”

Kishorn Port upgrades

The ongoing infrastructure upgrades are designed to reinvigorate facilities at Kishorn Port, with an eye to securing new contracts supporting offshore operations west of Shetland and in the deep waters of the North Atlantic. Russell says decommissioning operations could also become an important source of business at Kishorn.

“It is KPL’s aim to make Kishorn a key west coast hub for oil and gas operators particularly as activity levels increase to the west of Shetland,” he says. “Kishorn Port and dry dock are also looking at engagement in the offshore renewables and oil and gas decommissioning sectors. The large 160m diameter dry dock with up to 13.8m of water, together with deep sheltered berths, make it ideal for all these purposes.”

All images courtesy of Kishorn Port Ltd.