A HIGHLAND port has awarded the contract to build a new £30 million energy and cruise hub to international contractor Roadbridge UK.

Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) announced the quayside extension that will be central to the new hub earlier this week, following it winning a £10m contract from Moray Offshore Windfarm – Moray East – for its use as an intermediate port for windfarm construction.

The hub is expected to create an estimated 16 new full-time jobs through the construction and operation phases, many of which will be in the Highlands and Islands.

PoCF said Roadbridge UK is one of Europe’s leading civil engineering and construction contractors based in Ireland and the UK and that it has a reputation for working collaboratively and delivering exemplary projects.

The company won the open public tender based on a number of assessment criteria, including their quality assurance, the strength and experience of their project team, their commitment to community benefit and a competitive price.

They also have relevant knowledge of marine projects, with recent experience at Dublin port.

PoCF said its tender process incorporated conditions which would ensure maximum benefits to the local community from the project.

These included sustainable employment for priority groups, including unemployed people; targeted recruitment and training for modern apprentices and work experience placements; educational benefits through career events and site visits; vocational training to upskill apprentices, graduates and existing employees; and supporting supply chain development for small to medium sized businesses and micro-businesses, as well as financial support for community projects.

Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: “This is a hugely complex job with a very tight schedule, so we are delighted to be working with Roadbridge.

“They won this contract against very stiff competition from six other leading national and international contractors.

“Their team is totally committed to ensuring the port’s communities benefit from this build in line with our own trust port philosophy.

“It is a hugely exciting time for the port and we look forward to working with Roadbridge on this build to ensure it is ready for the Moray East windfarm project in 2020.”

Cathal Doherty a director of Roadbridge UK, added: “We are delighted to have won this contract from the Port of Cromarty Firth. It will be a privilege working with a trust port, as all profits are reinvested into developments such as this.

“Their commitment to their local communities fits with our ethos. We are looking forward to starting work on this project and creating sustainable jobs for the future of the area.”

Work on the new hub will start in January next year, with the construction of a 218m long quayside with steel piles, construction of a new retaining wall, or revetment, and nine-acre land reclamation.

Work is expected to be completed by spring 2020.

The new quayside and laydown area will be designed to accommodate large scale renewable, decommissioning and oil and gas projects, as well as being able to berth the largest cruise ships currently being designed and built.

It is the second such development to be built by the port in three years after it invested £25m in a new 150m quayside and laydown area in 2015/16, which helped it achieve its most successful year ever in 2017.