Bliadhna mhath ùr!/ Happy New Year! - Eann Sinclair CNSRP Reviews 2018
4th January 2019
My weekly CNSRP updates are intended to be short and informative, and the same applies to this quick review of 2018 as it relates to the work of CNSRP! Our focus this year has remained on those key opportunities we feel will bring us maximum economic and socio-economic returns. And, amidst wider economic uncertainties, we continue to see good progress.
The first half of the year saw encouraging signs from the offshore wind sector, with both Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) and its key contractor Siemens Gamesa advertising employment opportunities relating to the long term operation and maintenance of its field off the east coast of Caithness. We were delighted to see BOWL, Siemens and Wick Harbour Authority exhibiting at the annual Jobs and How to Get Them event in February, and to see how popular their stands were amongst the hundreds to attendees.
As the year has gone on it has been great to see the progress being made with both offshore and onshore construction of the BOWL development. The project achieved a key milestone in July with the first of its turbines installed and generating power: by December over 50% of its turbines were installed and connected. Onshore, the project's operations base in the 200 year old Thomas Telford buildings at Wick harbour continued to take shape, and custom pontoons were completed for the fleets of crew transfer vessels taking up to 100 people per day from Wick out to the field.
Around the same time BOWL became grid connected, the UK Space Agency announced the award of funding for the development of a facility in north Sutherland to launch small scale satellites. This was closely followed by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) announcing its own funding and confirming its intention to progress the planned development in close discussion with landowner Melness Crofters' Trust and the wider community. Autumn and early winter saw the first in an ongoing series of community information events in Melness and Tongue, with staff present from industry partners Lockheed Martin and Orbex Space. 2019 will see these events continue, as discussions with the Trust and others also continue in the run up to an expected planning application later in the year. November saw staff from Lockheed Martin participate in local engineering industry events, highlighting future employment and apprenticeship opportunities.
Summer also brought the team from Sykes @ Home to Caithness. This global company ran recruitment event in Thurso as it began a search in the Highlands and islands for people interested in homeworking - the strongest response came from those in Caithness and Sutherland, bringing a different opportunity to those seeking employment.
Infrastructure issues have also progressed. The much anticipated Berriedale Braes improvement scheme entered competitive dialogue stage this year with four companies bidding (RJ McLeod (Contractors) Ltd, Morrison Construction, Roadbridge UK and Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd.) This competition is currently in its "stand-still" phase before the successful tenderer starts work.
And the Princess Royal formally opened the NDA Archive in Wick, which is now home to both the NDA and Caithness archives, and giving employment to nearly 30 people.
The major consultation into the proposed redesign of Health and social care services in Caithness was also completed at the end of November, so we look forward to progress on this important programme in 2019.
And CNSRP itself has seen changes this year. In June CNSRP's independent chair Sir Anthony Cleaver stepped down after ten years, to be replaced by Ian Ross. Sir Anthony's many industry and political connections have been important to the Partnership over the years, and Ian's extensive experience and local, regional and national connections will bring a renewed sense of momentum as the Partnership enters 2019. Following Roy Kirk’s move to become director of the UKVL project in September, I became Acting Area Manager for HIE, and then in November I became Area Manager. My role as CNSRP Manager will be advertised in early 2019 - a vote of confidence from CNSRP partners in the value of joint working.
PHOTO - The redevelopment of the former Stevens building at Wick harbour now at an advanced stage. - Photo - Bill Fernie
Energy & Business Services: It was good to meet this week with a large company seeking to grow its presence in Caithness, and good to be able to provide some productive links with initiatives that HIE is already supporting and which might help further attract its interest. We are fortunate in having a number of opportunities in the north in the engineering/ energy sectors and I'm particularly keen to help where there are clear opportunities to use innovation as a means of bringing more international trade opportunities to the area.
Weeks commencing 10th & 17th December 2018. UKVL Sutherland: The UKVL team was in Tongue last week to hold another drop-in session to update local residents on progress with the project.
Weeks commencing 26th November and 3rd December 2018 UKVL Sutherland: I was delighted to take part in a discussion this week in Thurso with Trudy Morris of Caithness Chamber, the HIE team taking forward the UKVL project and UK/ US representatives from Lockheed Martin. As I have previously highlighted here, Lockheed Martin are one of the two industry partners involved in the project, and their vast experience of launch and satellite technology was clear as we discussed opportunities for the local supply chain as well as exciting opportunities to bring a long-term Lockheed Martin presence into Caithness and North Sutherland.
Week Commencing 26tg November 2018 Energy & Business Services: Following last week's Offshore Wind Week Crown Estate Scotland has just published its report into future licensing rounds for offshore wind leases. http://www.crownestatescotland.com/media-and-notices/news-media-releases-opinion/timescales-and-next-steps-for-new-offshore-wind-leasing-for-scotland at the same time it has been interesting to note that Highland Council's north planning committee this week agreed to raise no objection to the application by Moray West for an offshore windfarm off the Caithness coast.
Weeks Commencing 12th and 19th November 2018 Energy & Business Services: My colleague Keith Muir and I met up last week with the directors of JGC Engineering Services Ltd to catch up on current and future plans, which have been boosted by the news I shared recently that JGC has been awarded a contract by Siemens Transmission and Distribution relating to the Triton Knoll offshore windfarm project of the east coast of England. Siemens is also the turbine provider for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm off the Caithness coast.
Energy & Business Services: I met up this week with Stephen Sutherland, Chair of Caithness Chamber of Commerce and director at JGC Engineering & Technical Services, at a tourism-related session hosted by the Chamber Board (see below for more). Stephen told me about the fantastic news that JGC has been awarded a contract by Siemens Transmission and Distribution relating to the Triton Knoll offshore windfarm project of the east coast of England.
Weeks commencing 15th & 22nd October. Energy & Business Services: Cavendish Dounreay Partnership, the Parent Body Organisation at Dounreay, made a significant announcement last week on opportunities for its workforce .(https://www.gov.uk/government/news/dounreay-management-makes-long-term-employment-commitment-to-workforce), which included a commitment to "develop training and support programmes to put individuals in the strongest possible position to move into another local job with one of the growing industries such as space or renewable energy.
Weeks commencing 17th September- 1st October 2018. Energy & Business Services: CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise, in association with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and Scottish Government, has launched a programme called "Fit For Offshore Renewables (F4OR)." This is a service to help the UK supply chain get ready to bid for work in the offshore renewable energy sector.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has made leadership changes in Caithness and Sutherland, following the recent announcement of plans to create a spaceport near Tongue. Roy Kirk has moved from his role as area manager to become project director for the new spaceport, where he will lead HIE's plans to develop the new satellite launch facility.
WeekCommencing 20th August 2018 Energy & Business Services: Good to see another Beatrice milestone being reached this week, with the news that all of the inter-array cabling for the development has now been completed. With the crew transfer vessels based in Wick now able to use the new pontoon berths at the harbour the project is reaching the critical phase where construction work and operations work are both moving ahead quickly.
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