By Scott Wright

THE £350 million project to create a new south harbour at the port of Aberdeen has run into fresh controversy after the main contractor cut ties with the work.

Aberdeen Harbour Board and Dragados UK jointly announced they had mutually agreed to part ways yesterday, with the contractor ceasing work on the project on June 15. At that stage Aberdeen Harbour Board will take full responsibility for the site.

The decision comes after it emerged in October that the project would be delayed owing to “technical challenges”, pushing back the expected completion from this year until 2021.

In a joint statement, Aberdeen Harbour chief executive Michelle Handforth said the interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic had compounded

those challenges.

She said: “This year’s summer season was of critical importance to the Aberdeen Harbour expansion project, as we endeavoured to complete a series of major construction milestones and continued to address the rock removal challenges first identified in October last year.

“The interruption to the schedule as a result of the Covid-19 emergency has had the effect of greatly compounding those existing challenges. It is too early at this stage to confirm what impact this will have on the construction timeline, especially given current Covid-19 restrictions, but the intention for a phased opening, when safe to do so, remains unaffected.”

The project involves the development of new facilities in Nigg Bay to the south of the existing harbour, designed to position Aberdeen Harbour to take advantage of opportunities in renewable energy, decommissioning and tourism. The new facilities would allow larger cruise ships to dock at the harbour, which would help boost tourism in the

north east.

According to the statement, the procurement process to complete the remaining packages that comprise 30% of the construction project has begun.

A spokesperson for Dragados UK said: “Dragados UK is proud of the progress achieved with this project but the Covid-19 emergency and other factors have meant that our involvement in the project has ended earlier than originally anticipated. We wish the project every success as it progresses towards completion.”