AT its height it employed 3,000 people and built the world's largest movable object more than 40 years ago.

Now one of Europe's largest dry docks in the far north-west of Scotland has made a significant move to help cash in on the expected £83billion offshore decommissioning bonanza.

Kishorn fabrication yard has just completed the huge task of draining the dry dock and open the dock gates in a bid to make the site ready to take redundant oil rigs from the North Sea to be broken up.

It is a complete turnaround for Kishorn, in Wester Ross, which was historically an oil and gas fabrication yard and was used for the casting of the 600,000-tonne Ninian Central platform in the late 1970s.

The last time the port’s two 13,000 tonne dock gates were moved was in 1994, when the two concrete foundation caissons for the Skye Bridge were floated out.

Now the yard's owners are aiming to breathe new life into the former yard after being boosted by a £500,000 investment.

The yard specialised in building massive concrete casings for use in some of the largest oil platforms in the North Sea, most of which are now coming to end of their lifespans.

Such was the scale of the Ninian Central, indentations from the huge rig structure were found preserved on the concrete when the dry dock was drained.

It is hoped the yard will restart manufacturing concrete parts for new offshore windfarms while the yard's owners are currently bidding for some decommissioning work in a move that could create an initial 200 jobs.

KPL director Simon Russell said: “The dry dock at Kishorn is one of the largest in western Europe at 160 metres in diameter with 13 metres of draft available, allowing it to accommodate some of the largest floating structures that have been fabricated for the North Sea oil and gas industry.

“Indeed, the Ninian Central production platform, which at 610,000 tonnes is one of the largest concrete structures ever to have moved across the face of the earth, was constructed at Kishorn’s dry dock in the late 1970s.”

"While it is unlikely it will return to be decommissioned as the concrete structures are probably too big to release from the sea bed, we are certainly actively looking to get smaller contracts.

"The potential is huge both in decommissioning terms and also for offshore windfarms which we are also looking to get involved with.

"It would be great to get the yard back to where it was and have all the workers back on site, but we're a way off from that yet.

"The dry dock is just the first step, now we are looking to restart the concrete manufacturing site but these are exciting times."

Kishorn was recently identified as an area which could play a key role in the decommissioning of North Sea oil rigs.

Kishorn Port Ltd is a joint venture between Ferguson Transport and Shipping and Leiths (Scotland) Ltd and has been working over the last eight years to identify markets that need access to sheltered deep water and a large dry dock.

The projected cost of decommissioning the North Sea oil and gas infrastructure has been estimated at £83 billion and continues to grow.

To date, most of the large contracts have gone to yards elsewhere in Europe or Scandinavia, mainly because there is a shortage of adequate licenced facilities in Scotland.

The figure comes from a regulatory report that highlighted the potential for the UK to become a world leader in decommissioning but which may heighten fears about the implications for taxpayers.

The report from the Oil and Gas Authority represents the latest attempt to estimate the bill the industry will face for clearing up in the North Sea as hundreds of fields reach the end of their lives in coming decades.

The authority has calculated there are more than 250 fixed installations, over 250 subsea production systems, 3,000 pipelines and approximately 5,000 wells, all of which require to be decommissioned.

Revenues from North Sea oil have plunged amid the downturn triggered by the sharp fall in oil prices since 2014.

The company says licencing the yard for handling decommissioning projects is the next hurdle and consultation with the appropriate authorities has already started.

Alasdair Ferguson, a KPL Director, said: “If Scotland is to capture a share of this market, it is essential to invest in and bring on stream sites such as Kishorn and make them ‘decommissioning ready’.

"Dry docks are ideal for decommissioning floating structures in a contained environment, particularly if they can be accessed by super heavy lift vessels that need sheltered deep water up to 38 metres in depth where 70 metres is available to tranship their loads.”