Empty warehouses, piles of scrap on the water’s edge: between Dundee and Edinburgh, the Methil shipyard, facing the North Sea, is sadly calm at the beginning of October. The company was nonetheless a benchmark in Scotland until the mid-2010s, a specialist in the construction of oil platforms, which successfully began a conversion into structures for offshore wind turbines. Its parent company, BiFab, today ‘hui disappeared, had two other sites and employed up to 1,400 full-time workers.
After being bankrupted in early 2021, then bought by the Italian InfraStrata, the Methil shipyard has just taken over a small order (8 wind turbine foundations) for the huge NnG project (operated by EDF), just 15 kilometers from the off Methil. “The shipyard is recruiting 290 people”, specifies, cautiously optimistic, David Alexander, councilor SNP (Scottish National Party, independence) and co-leader of the council of the region of Fife, where is Methil. Corn “85% of the foundations for NnG wind turbines are made in Indonesia, on the other side of the earth. They will have to be brought on giant barges, running on diesel, it’s absurd ”, regrets Peter Welsh, spokesperson for the GMB Scotland union (one of the main centers in the country).
Errors and inaction
Why has this potential champion of the green transition not been able to take advantage of the proliferation of wind farm projects off the coast of Scotland? BiFab has been bad luck, suffered from mismanagement but also, according to the unions, from the inaction of politicians, British and Scottish – the definition of energy policy is reserved for the British government, but the Scottish government has planning and housing skills – which have failed to preserve local employment.
“The boss of BiFab died in 2017, and no one so experienced has taken over, says Michael Sullivan, ex-representative of the GMB union in the company. BiFab began to lose contracts to Spanish or UAE shipyards, the company did not have sufficient size or capital. And it was penalized because of the much stricter safety instructions than on foreign sites. We were reporting an accident for a cut on the finger, in Saudi Arabia, for a torn arm. “
Unions denounce wind farm operators who “race for the lowest prices” and “modern slavery practices”
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Scottish green transition left behind