23 November 2001

Caithness Community Web Site News Index

Four organisations, including leading players in the ports and related industries, have expressed strong interest in the plans to establish a container port in Orkney's Scapa Flow.

This follows a request from the project steering group, including Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Orkney Islands Council (OIC) and Orkney Enterprise (OE) that statements of interest be submitted by the end of October. Detailed discussions will now be held with each of the interested parties, which include Forth Ports PLC, who have made their interest public.

The steering group will also continue to liaise with a range of other companies in the container shipping industry, from North America, Europe and the Far East, with whom discussions have been held over the last year.
"We are very encouraged, both by the level of interest that's been shown, and the calibre of the players who are involved." said Councillor J. Foubister, Chairman of the Steering Group.  "Their interest underlines the strong business case we are making that Scapa is an ideal location for such a development. We will now be inviting representatives of the four companies for further discussions in Orkney.

"The most likely model for the development of the Scapa Flow Containerport is a consortium including terminal operator, one or more shippers, a developer, and a financial institution and we will continue to talk to companies in each of these categories.

"The logic of our proposals remains compelling. A container transhipment port at Scapa Flow would offer savings to shippers, and environmental advantages over development at existing congested ports which do not have the depth of water which exists in Scapa Flow and would require extensive dredging works"

Tom Matthew, HIE's Transport Policy Manager, said: "The current economic downturn may have put companies' investment plans on temporary hold, but there are positive signs that growth in world trade will resume in the near future. Companies will be looking for new container terminals capable of handling the largest containerships, and we believe that Scapa Flow is a prime candidate for such a development."

The Scapa Flow Containerport Steering Group consists of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Orkney Islands Council, and Orkney Enterprise.  It was formed in 2000 to promote the idea of a container transhipment port at Scapa Flow, initially for the North Atlantic route, and in association with Halifax in Nova Scotia. The concept was fully investigated in a feasibility study commissioned by HIE, OIC, and Halifax Port Authority.  The study, undertaken by Professor Alf Baird at Napier University's Maritime Transport Research Unit, showed that significant cost and environmental savings could be achieved by a transhipment port at Scapa Flow, as compared with existing patterns of container transport.