GREEN energy firms will be where coal depots once stood, double the cruise ship traffic will bring wealth, and an aquaculture centre will help harness the seafood potential of the waters around the west coast of Scotland.

Jim McSporran, the new director of Clydeport, hails the “180 degree” transformation the huge marine gateway to Scotland is undergoing.

He says Hunterston Port and Resource Centre (PARC) owner Peel Ports is close to putting ink to paper on a number of renewable energy deals of significant scale with businesses set to take up to 10 acres each at the site, while a new data centre cluster will be a technology hub that also produces usable energy at the port.

While no cruises are currently sailing, there is a plan to increase the number sailings from the previous 75, to 120, minimum. “I think we can do that,” said Mr McSporran.

“I’ve got 91 booked already for next year, Covid, again, permitting.”

There are also boat-building plans under way.

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Mr McSporran is an oil and gas industry veteran who brings 25 years of experience in the field to the job.

Just over seven weeks into the role, before joining Peel Ports, he was group managing director of Streamline Shipping, an international logistics business based in Aberdeen with sites across the UK and internationally.

One of its lines was bringing vital services to the islands during the pandemic and “providing lifeline services to the isles was just us at our best”, he said.

From January he will also be the duty holder of the Clydeport Authority and the Ardrossan Port Authority.

“That’s 480 square nautical miles of water, which is a huge responsibility,” he said. “One day we’re dealing with containers, and this morning we’re dealing with getting the whales out the Holy Loch.”

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While the cruise business was completely closed by Covid, the container business has continued, bringing supplies and medicines.

He also said Clydeport could be considered to play a greater part in the post-Brexit import and export chain, helping avoid the dreaded 7,000-truck Dover tailbacks.

“The port communities will still be just the same, they are still going to have to bring products in, there maybe different tariffs and taxation, but the products are still going to have to come in, the trade will still need to happen.”

Taken together, the plans for the port could lead to the creation of up to 2,000 jobs, said Mr McSporran.

He said: "I’m looking at a circular economy within our site.

“We’re talking to people that are bringing in green energy, and we are at the advanced stages with a couple of companies where they can maybe take five to 10 acres, and we’re just closing on those deals at the minute.

“We are looking at creating a cluster of data providers.

“The other thing is that we’re working on the next trenche of businesses at a 20-acre deal tripartite deal with Scottish Enterprise and North Ayrshire Council, and we’re also involved in some of the unis.

“I’ve been engaging with Stirling Uni, Glasgow Uni, UWS who are really keen in getting involved.

“We want to create an aquaculture centre of excellence then looking at the possibility of bringing in fish processing. A big part of the Scottish economy is our seafood side, and we can do that better, so the centre of excellence would allow us to make that happen.”

“We’ve been nominated as one of the potential sites for quite a large company, and we’re investigating that.

“So a lot happening.”

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The marine focus for Clydeport are the King George V Dock, Greenock Ocean Terminal, Hunterston PARC and Ardrossan terminals.

The business provides “space, facilities and expertise” to store and process more than 15.4 million tonnes of cargo a year and help the carriers handle thousands of passengers.

Mr McSporran said “We’re looking at projects where we could be building boats at Inchgreen, proper boats. And we’re close to coming over the line with that. I can’t, again, name any names, but that’s probably going to be coming in the next couple of weeks, we should be able to say to people. And that’s a huge win for the area. We’re talking about bringing job creation into the Clyde region, boat building back into the city again, apprenticeship schemes, we’re talking about as well.”

He said: “Everybody’s got to be interested in that, and we’ve got some big, heavy-hitting companies talking to us now.”

The pandemic has hit revenues, he said. “Certainly cruises has wiped us out, but we mitigate that by being diverse.

“We can only plan to get ready for next year, which is what we’ve done, but it has had an impact on our overall turnover.”

However he says there is still massive potential for the company. He said: “That’s the key thing for me, I want to make a difference, and make things better because we have fantastic assets. Fantastic water assets, fantastic onshore assets, and fantastic people.”


What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

Last year I was in Tampa, Florida, for a family reunion, which was great, with fantastic weather thrown in.

I recently visited Gujarat in India to help design and build a new oil and gas port facility for ONGC, the Indian National Oil company. The noise, colour and food was memorable. 

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

My dad used to say “Jim, get a trade” so it was always my ambition to be an engineer. I have an analytical mind that needs to figure out why things are the way they are and how can I make them better. 

What was your biggest break in business?

Getting the call to Join Peterson UK in 2013 as group operations director. It gave me the chance to work in the energy sector at a level where I could make a difference.What I learned will be invaluable to Peel Ports’ Hunterston plans. 

What was your worst moment in business?

A planned meeting in Malta with my chief executive was not confirmed. On the day he called me from his hotel in Valletta asking what time I would be down for breakfast I was at my desk in Aberdeen.

Who do you most admire and why?

The NHS, police, fire service and all others who have protected us during the pandemic.

What book are you reading, what was the last film you saw and what music are you listening to?

I’ve just picked up Sir Alex Ferguson’s biography – a great read.
I watched the John Wayne classic The Searchers last weekend and I’m currently listening to Tom Misch.