3,000 jobs axed at oil rig yards

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The Independent Online

More than 3,000 workers at two fabrication yards today learned they would lose their jobs by next spring.

More than 3,000 workers at two fabrication yards today learned they would lose their jobs by next spring.

The Barmac yards at Nigg and Ardersier, near Inverness, will be mothballed by next spring, the company said.

The firm confirmed that its workforce of 3,700 would be cut to about 400 by the end of next April.

Economic factors beyond its control were to blame, especially low oil prices and the strong pound, the company added.

The yards make offshore platforms and employ around 3,000 at any one time, although the number fluctuates because employees are on short-term contracts.

The yards are about 20-years-old and have been owned for about five years by Barmac, a joint venture between two American multinationals - Halliburton and McDermott.

A company spokesman said: "The vast majority of jobs will go as part of a natural and expected reduction process as current projects near completion."

Managing director Don Wright said the UK fabrication market had collapsed because of an investment freeze due to the downturn in the oil industry's fortunes.

Barmac will be rationalising its corporate management function and using Halliburton's Aberdeen and London sites for some of the functions carried out at the two yards, such as human resources, finance and procurement, the spokesman said.

Work will finish at the Nigg yard in March, including a giant Elf Enterprise Elgin PUQ platform, and at Ardersier the following month.

Mr Wright said: "No other yard in Europe could have built the Elgin PUQ and our workforce can be proud of this and other achievements we have made in recent years. We have invested over £10 million on our facilities in the last four years and, by common acknowledgement, have the best in the industry.

"We have the support of our parent companies, the local community in the Highlands, a highly skilled workforce to draw on and a track record which is second to none.

"However, no organisation can stand still and we have to adapt to survive. What we are currently engaged in is developing a strategy designed to secure our future - adopting a head in the sand, business as usual approach will not do for us."

He added that the job losses had been on the horizon for more than a year, but it did not necessarily mean the end of large scale employment by the oil industry in the Highlands.

"The UK fabrication industry is a very cyclic industry and unfortunately we are at the bottom of a cycle.

"If you look back over the last 20 years of the industry it has been boom and bust around every five years."

Scotland Office minister Brian Wilson said the UK Government was committed to ensuring it offered maximum support to the offshore gas and oil sector in Scotland.

He said: "The Department of Trade and Industry has been in contact with Barmac for some time and understands that they are pursuing a number of strategies including diversification and product development."