Saturday, October 19, 2019
The skye times mobile

It’s quite an accolade to say you’ve worked with the world’s biggest semi-submersible drilling rig – but that’s exactly what the team at Kishorn Port Limited (KPL) is able to tell you.

The Ocean GreatWhite, owned by Diamond Offshore, arrived in Loch Kishorn in January 2019, where she is currently being mobilised for drilling works in the North Sea.

Simon Russell, Director of Kishorn Port Ltd (KPL) and Leiths, revealed: “The Ocean GreatWhite came to Kishorn from Singapore via the Canary Islands. Before she arrived with us, she stayed in the waters near Ullapool so that she could undergo sea trials.  All the ferry passengers could see her and that sparked great interest in the rig!”

KPL has secured a contract to assist with the mobilisation of the Ocean GreatWhite, with Ferguson Transport & Shipping undertaking marine and stevedoring support.  This marks the first major contract for the company since the dry dock was used to enable the manufacture of the two concrete caissons that are currently supporting the Skye Bridge in 1992.

The dominating presence of the rig in the loch is a symbol of the renaissance that Simon hopes KPL will undergo.  During Kishorns hey day it provided jobs for over 3,000 people, most of who lived on site.  Simon says: “The Yard had two pubs and a police station while the men were working on the 610,000t Ninian Central oil production platform.  Sadly, the owner, Howard Doris, went bust and the yard lay dormant between 1988 and 1992.”

Simon’s employers, Leiths (Scotland) Ltd, joined forces with Alasdair Ferguson’s company, Ferguson’s Transport & Shipping in 2008.  The duo hope to use the Yard and dry dock in three key ways: as a facility for manufacturing and distributing renewable energy components, decommissioning and providing support to the oil and gas sector.  Simon explains why KPL is perfect for the job, saying: “The area could hardly be better for providing a temporary home to large rigs like this, as the loch is up to 100 metres deep, but, at the same time, very sheltered.”

The dry dock floor still bears the imprint of the Ninian Central oil production platform from its initial construction in the late 70s.  “The print is quite amazing,” Simon notes.  “We had a school trip here recently and one of the children said it was like an alien spaceship had landed!  The Ninian Central platform was the largest man-made moveable concrete object ever built at the time – and now Kishorn is home to the largest semi-submersible drilling rig!  Ally and I are hoping that winning the Ocean GreatWhite contract will mean we can secure a steady stream of contracts for similar rigs, as well as other contracts to simultaneously use our dry dock.  We want to provide reliable long term jobs for locals.”

The Ocean GreatWhite will remain in Kishorn until some time in late February, when she will make her way west of Shetland to drill holes in the deep ocean floor.  Simon explains: “Because the water is too deep to anchor, the rig has several computer-operated thrusters, which keep her steady.  Even in rough weather, those thrusters make sure she doesn’t move more than a meter in any direction.”  The rig weighs 60,800 tonnes and is capable of drilling a 10,000m borehole in 3,000m of water.

The dominating presence of the rig in the loch is surely both inspiring and nostalgic – a reminder of the buzzing port at its finest and a symbol of hope for the future.  “It looks like a sort of gigantic floating Christmas tree,” laughs Simon.  “We’ve had so much interest in it.  One thing Ally and I want to emphasize is that none of this could have happened without the support of the local community,” Simon enthuses.  “We’ve had so much support from local councillors, the Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, national and local politicians and the whole community – without them it would be impossible to do what we do.”

Anyone curious about the rig and the Kishorn facilities is invited to attend a Drop-In Morning on Saturday 23 February, where they will be able to visit the site and see the Ocean GreatWhite from the Yard.  Short talks and mini-bus tours will take place at intervals between 9:00 and 13:00.

All images kindly supplied by Simon Russell.  

Image one: Ocean GreatWhite with Applecross hills.

Image two: Ocean GreatWhite with dry dock.

Image three: Kishorn port viewed from the east.

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