A NEW £30 million quayside expansion in the north of Scotland looks set to generate more than 140 jobs across the Highlands and Islands.

Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) board made the announcement following the award of a £10m contract from Moray East Offshore Windfarm to use the facility as an intermediate port for its 95-turbine development.

The new 218m quayside and nine acres of laydown area has been designed as a new energy and cruise hub and is expected to be completed by 2020.

It will not only be able to accommodate large scale renewable, decommissioning and oil and gas projects, but will also be able to berth the largest cruise ships currently being designed and built.

This will be the second quayside and laydown area built by the port in three years after it invested £25m in a new 150m quayside and laydown area in 2015/16, which contributed to its most successful year in 2017.

Bob Buskie, PoCF chief executive, said: “We believe this investment will be help bring new work to the area for decades to come.

“This is already starting, with last week’s announcement of the Moray East Offshore Windfarm contract.

“There is a substantial demand for the services in the port and, even with the large new quayside and laydown area finished in 2016, we still experience capacity issues.

“This new Energy and Cruise Hub will help us resolve these problems and open up the port to being able to accommodate large scale projects from across all sectors.”

Fergus Ewing MSP for Inverness and Nairn said “This is excellent news and a result of hard work by the team at PoCF.

“I am delighted they have won this crucial contract and this will provide a real boost to the port and the wider Highland economy.”

The new quayside will be funded jointly by the port and HIE, including support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the commercial arm of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Charlotte Wright, HIE chief executive, said: “As well as enabling the port to fulfil its latest major contract for the Moray East windfarm project, this investment will also put it in a strong position to win further business in the energy sector and expand its capacity in the growing cruise ship market. By strengthening Scotland’s renewable energy supply chain, and creating new opportunities in the tourism sector, we believe this ambitious project will generate wider economic benefits well beyond the Inner Moray Firth.”

HIE has approved £7.75m grant funding for the project over the coming years, of which £2.3m is being contributed by the ERDF, with an application for a further £800,000 ERDF funding under consideration. The HIE package also includes £2m of funding from the Scottish Government.

Lindsay Smith, from RBS, said PoCF was a success story, and added: “We look forward to seeing its vision become a reality and allow the regional economy to continue on its upwards trajectory by supporting and creating hundreds of jobs both directly and indirectly.”

Oscar Dias, Moray East project director, said: “The efforts of Port of Cromarty Firth cannot be understated in securing this contract for Scotland and the Highlands. They won this contract against stiff competition including well established ports already undertaking this work.”