CROMARTY Firth Port Authority (CFPA) has signed a deal with Semco Maritime, which will see the Danish company establishing a rig refurbishment base in the firth at Invergordon.

Semco Maritime is a leading project engineering company in the global energy sector and is investing £5 million in the project. It is already working in partnership with ports in Norway, Denmark and Vietnam. It currently employs over 2000 people and has more than 30 years' experience facilitating the design, fabrication, service and maintenance of drilling rigs.

The port authority owns Scotland's leading marine facility for rig projects, the Invergordon Service Base, and has handled over 650 rig visits during 40 years.

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Andy Dodds, UK general manager of Semco Maritime, said: "Our UK division already employs over 50 people and is headquartered in Aberdeen. As per January 27, we will have expanded into Invergordon and will initially employ a permanent staff of 10 engineers, project leaders and ground personnel. Because of a tight time schedule and the demand for precise and accurate execution, rig upgrade is a highly manpower-intensive operation, creating several hundreds of jobs when a rig is harboured for service. Many of the jobs will be performed by local suppliers and skilled local labour, working closely with Semco Maritime's own rig upgrade specialist team."

Chief executive of CFPA Bob Buskie said the announcement was not just good for the port, but for the supply chain companies who operate in Ross-shire and throughout the Highlands.

"By offering a wider choice of solutions for our customers, we are boosting the robustness of the Highlands energy sector, as well as creating opportunities for future growth."

Semco Maritime's senior vice president Hans Peter Jørgensen said: "Social responsibility is at the heart of all we do and any investment will take into account the impact on the town of Invergordon, with whom we are keen to establish a strong relationship with."