Nigg hope

Plans are afoot to turn Scottish naval shipyard Nigg into a major ferry builder.

The ruling SNP party has put forward proposals for the move, which is being led by Inverness SNP councillor and transport consultant, Roy Pedersen.

He wants to see the Ross-shire yard become a centre for constructing fuel efficient vessels for domestic use and export, local media reported.

Stewart Ballantyne, head of Australian ship design company Sea Transport Corporation, will be having a series of meetings with academics, a Scottish government minister and officials from Highland Council to explore the potential of the plans when he visits Scotland this month.

Pedersen said: "This is a real opportunity, not only for Nigg, but for Scotland as a whole and we are delighted to have such high profile interest in the proposals.

"It is often said that Scotland's relatively high wage economy can't compete with cheaper foreign yards, yet higher wage countries like Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, Korea, Japan and Australia all have productive industries based on modern design, quality build and series production."

Pedersen acknowledged progress would depend on the current stalemate over the sale of the yard being resolved but pointed to a masterplan drawn up by Highland Council and the possibility of a compulsory purchase order being used.

He said he viewed the shipbuilding proposal as something which could co-exist with other uses of the yard, including the development of renewable energy schemes.

Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the UK subsidiary of Halliburton, the US defence contractor, put the yard up for sale in 2005.

Trade Winds