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Port of Ardesier shares more on £300 million plan for development

By Scott Maclennan

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Lewis Gillies.
Lewis Gillies.

A £300 million investment in developing the Port of Ardersier is only the beginning its owners have said – as they seek to create a bespoke base for companies who want a share of Scotland’s massive renewable energy potential.

Haventus chief executive Lewis Gillies is seeking to create a “blank canvas” at the site so the needs of investors can be met, whatever they are, creating what it is hoped will be hundreds of jobs in the process.

The company opened the 450 acre site last week for a tour and to discuss its plans for the future.

Much of the site has been cleared and is being primed for development.

New quays are being built and thousands of tons of soil dredged out of the firth to create access for vessels.

And the £300 million investment made by Haventus, with backing from US private equity funds from Quantum Investments, is for phase one of development only.

When completed the new quay wall will be 42 metres deep and 600 metres long with around 2.5 million cubic metres of sand to be removed during construction.

It is expected to be opened during the fourth quarter of next year.

Despite the massive transformation of the site the firm has committed to making a “net positive” contribution to the local environment.

A large pond on site is to be preserved with cameras set up to keep an eye on it.

It has also been agreed with national environment agency NatureScot and others that dredging work will not take place during the dolphin mating season to avoid disturbing the species at a critical time in the Moray Firth.

Ardersier Port.
Ardersier Port.

The vision for the site is to create a major energy transition site comprising construction of offshore wind turbines and their bases as well as a decommissioning yard for oil and gas rigs.

Having become part of the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport it has stressed its commitment to involving communities in its journey.

A range of contractors are being brought in to support different parts of the operation with “hundreds” of workers expected on site in the coming months.

Lewis-born Mr Gillies has worked for more than two decades in renewables and feels confident the vision is well within his grasp, having overseen larger projects than this.

“It’s certainly not one of the largest projects that I’ve worked on, not by a long way,” he said. “Not yet.

“I’ve worked on some pretty significant projects around the world, but in terms of the Highlands this probably represents one of the biggest foreign direct investments in the area ever.

“I’m extremely proud that I can bring my experience of those projects and my linkages to large private equity firms to bear in the Highlands and invest in facilities like Ardersier.

“I mean you could fit 300 football fields on our site here, that demonstrates the scale of it, and this site is essential to the development of the offshore wind industry in Scotland and the creation of employment and opportunities and wealth for this area.

Ardersier Port.
Ardersier Port.

“Our intention here is to create an energy transition facility, which is essentially a blank canvas with a gate to the road in, a gate to the sea, and then our intent beyond that is to bring in tenants to the site.

“Some who will manufacture some of the components for the offshore wind industry and others who will basically use the site for the marshalling of those facilities before they’re floated out to the North Sea.

“And what we want to do is actually build exactly what they need – not what we think they need, so we will develop this in conjunction with them.”

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