Innovation is at the heart of successful business and Montrose Port Authority has always embraced the opportunity for positive change.

The start of the year saw a move from the traditional whiteboard way of working to an online system called ION Marlin SmartPort.

ION developed its software with Scottish Enterprise grant support and Montrose Port is now a testbed to refine technology that could transform the safety, efficiency and sustainability of ports and harbours.

The authority’s chief executive/harbour master, Captain Tom Hutchison, explains: “With the ION Marlin SmartPort system we can now log on to our laptops at home and see the movements for the day – and have all the port control details at our fingertips.

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“This has been invaluable and means we’ve been able to work as safely as possible during the uncertain time of Covid-19.

“It’s definitely given us an advantage as a port during the pandemic and it’s great we’re the first port in the world to use this.”

Hutchison points out having a small but versatile team has also helped keep operations running throughout the past six months, even during the national lockdown.

“Our staff are key workers and have assisted in keeping the supply chain moving,” he says. “We even saw an increase in general cargo at the beginning of the pandemic.”

“In fact, the port saw a 33 per cent rise in general cargo coming through in the first quarter of 2020, mostly made up of agribulk unloaded and transported across Angus and Aberdeenshire.”

Another major boost has been the Seagreen project, which Hutchison reports is progressing well, with design plans now finalised for the operations and maintenance base for a 114-turbine, 1075MW offshore wind farm.

Seagreen, located 27km off the coast of Angus, represents a £3 billion joint venture between SSE Renewables and Total. Publication of the new design will allow construction work on the operations and maintenance base to start in the coming weeks.

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Hutchison says: “This is a massive piece of business not just for the port but also the wider supply chain and region. It helps secure the port’s future in the renewables sector through Seagreen becoming the biggest wind farm in Scotland. The project is committed to creating local jobs and involvement with the local community.

“This 25-year commitment from Seagreen will ensure ongoing investment and redevelopment of our existing facilities in line with our remit as a Trust port. It also demonstrates our consistently flexible approach and long-term diversification strategy, as well as offering an outstanding opportunity for the local supply network.

“We have a dedicated project team leader to focus on our carbon footprint with the ambition of working towards becoming carbon neutral,” says Hutchison. “We’re looking to electrify our vehicle fleet, replace all our floodlighting to LEDS, invest in solar panels, and install electrical car-charging points across the 59-acre estate.

“We’re dedicated to working closely with all our stakeholders and helping them reduce their own carbon footprint within the port too. We’re also a member of Eco Ports and working with ports across Europe.”

Looking ahead, he feels positive in the port’s ability to maintain and grow its existing energy business, which has been important to its success to date – at the same time diversifying into the burgeoning renewables and decommissioning markets.

“We’ve secured long-term leasing deals with Baker Hughes, who have also invested £13m in a subsea center of excellence in Montrose as part of their supply chain. The port is also well positioned to support the upcoming ScotWind leasing round and we hope to attract more renewables work.

“As a Trust port we’re continually investing in our infrastructure,” adds Hutchison. “We completed £7.7m of work in quayside upgrading last year.”

Innovation certainly seems to have found a safe harbour in Montrose.

For more information visit www.montroseport.co.uk

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