BiFab yards saved as Scotland brokers deal with Canadian firm

Arnish facility

The future of the UK-based offshore fabrication company BiFab has been secured following a deal with a Canadian firm hammered out by the Scottish government which will also take a minority stake in support of the future of the yard. 

BiFab’s problems started late last year due to unpaid fees by client Seaway Heavy Lifting for work related to the construction of the Beatrice Offshore Wind farm. The Scottish government then committed to help the company and lift the threat of administration.

In February, UK’s trade union Unite claimed that some 260 jobs at BiFab were to go by early summer with the possible closure of the yards completely by the end of June.

At the time, Unite said that these timescales could only be reversed if new contracts could be established for the yards.

Following months of discussions, new investment has now been secured for BiFab and its yards at Methil and Burntisland in Fife and Arnish in the Western Isles, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday.

Namely, Canadian industrial construction company JV Driver, through its subsidiary DF Barnes, has acquired BiFab as part of an agreement brokered by the Scottish Government to support new opportunities at these yards for fabrication and construction in the marine, renewables, and energy sector.

The government emphasized that DF Barnes has been a consistent employer in the oil and gas, fabrication and marine industries for over 80 years.

DF Barnes and JV Driver will bring project expertise and financial security to the company as it bids for new contracts. BiFab will in turn bring global reach and expansion to DF Barnes to the benefit of both organizations in Scotland and in Canada. As part of the agreement, the Scottish Government will take a minority shareholding in the new company to demonstrate continued commitment to supporting the future of the yard.

 

‘No magic bullet’ 

 

The First Minister and Economy Secretary Keith Brown, who oversaw the negotiations for the Scottish Government, met with JV Driver and DF Barnes executive leaders at the BiFab yard at Methil before meeting the GMB union and shop stewards to discuss the agreement.

The Economy Secretary will make a statement to the Scottish Parliament later on Tuesday.

Speaking at Methil the First Minister said: “We are delivering on the commitment I made last year that we would stand by BiFab and work to secure a long term future for the company.

“We have been in negotiations with DF Barnes for a number of months and today is a significant step forward in our efforts to restore BiFab to its place at the center of Scotland’s marine energy industry.

“DF Barnes acquisition is a key milestone for all three BiFab yards and as a sign of our commitment to the company’s future, the Scottish Government will maintain a close interest by taking a minority shareholding in the company.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead, and there is no magic bullet for these yards but the commitment of DF Barnes to securing a new future for the business at Burntisland, Methil and Arnish is a hugely positive step and I believe that gives BiFab the best chance of winning future contracts and securing new work.”

DF Barnes CEO, Jason Fudge, said: “Scotland has been an admired world leader in the offshore oil and gas and renewable energy sectors and we are delighted to join with the employees of BiFab and the people of Scotland to ensure the continued growth of BiFab for the benefit of all.”

DF Barnes VP in Business Development, Sean Power, said: “We will work closely with management and the union representatives to ensure continuity for the people who work for the company.”

Economy Secretary, Keith Brown, said: “The Scottish Government believes BiFab can be a thriving business, supporting Scotland’s offshore renewables and oil and gas industry as well as competing internationally.

“As the current contract comes to an end, and while efforts go into winning new work there will continue to be difficult times for the yard and there can be no guarantees that contracts will be won but I am confident this agreement, which sees the Scottish Government become a minority shareholder in the company, will deliver for BiFab’s future in Fife and the Western Isles.”

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