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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Arnish Fabrication Yard - update

Although I was criticised on my posting on this issue for getting facts wrong, I don't think I was that far out now that I can report that the Arnish Fabrication Yard has been put on a care and maintenance basis, with two employees left of the total workforce. It gives me no pleasure at all to see this outcome.

Potential buyers have failed to come forward to take over operations from Camcal, as a sole party which expressed an interest did not follow up on that. Current operators Camcal are in financial difficulties and need another company to take over from them.

I sustain my criticism of those in higher authority for failing to support the facility just outside Stornoway, which could be a source of employment for dozens if not hundreds in Lewis. I am not just talking about pouring in the millions, as this has proven not to work. Whether it be 9 million or 20 million, it appears to have gone down the plughole. Neither am I wholly blaming Camcal for that.

The Scottish Executive is implementing central government policy for renewable energy. So we have windfarms sprouting like mushrooms across the highlands and islands. One of the projects that Arnish was involved in was an offshore windfarm in the Beatrice oilfield in the northern North Sea.

But the focus should not be wholly on windpower, as I continue to argue. The Pelamis wavepower units, which were produced at Arnish, were for use in Portugal. Although a Scottish invention, trialled in Scotland and produced in Scotland, no effort was made on the part of the Scottish Executive to foster Pelamis for use in Scottish waters, and our waters a lot rougher than down in Portugal.

Another hot potato in the case of the viability of the Arnish yard is 6-day working. Other yards operate 7 days a week. With all respect to religious conviction, if you only operate 6/7, you lose 14% of your potential capacity.

When are we going to see more than just lipservice from the Executive, and get some action to support the Western Isles' economy?
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 11:41


What other yards? Not sure what you are saying in regard to the 'hot potato'. Most of the guys at the Arnish yard over the years, worked 12hr shifts with a 8hr shift on Saturday or 'Sunday' (after midnight). That made a 'normal' week of 68 hours. Some were even doing the two shifts on the weekend making the working week 72hrs. Some occasionally worked 24 hours at a stretch. Should they have worked more hours? If you are saying the yard should be running 24/7, then the workers would need to put in more hours, even if it was detrimental to their health and left their social life in chaos. The other alternative would be for the company to take on more labour to cover the extra hours. I do not think the extra staffing costs would be viable either. Get a grip!

Bigmac from Isle of Lewis

What makes you think there wasn't Sunday working !!!! You just couldn't see it.

Me from Ex Camcal

For the last 32 years Arnish has stumbled from one disaster to the next.It must now be time to accept the inevitable and scrap the place once and for all.The site could then be used for the luxury hotel that seems to be the flavour of the month or possibly the new brewery.

Paul Marsh from Derbyshire

Other yards working Sundays pay double time and workers take a dday in lieu during the week. This means their six days of work cost more than the Arnish worker's six days. There are economic as well as spiritual reasons why the Sabbath should be a day of rest. I know you cannot wait to tear traditional island life apart but this particular argument wont do it. And these hot potatoes you are on about - how are they cooked? By calor gas or electric? And which type of potato makes the best hot political one?

calumannabel from port of ness parliament

I totally agree with all your well made comments on the demise of the Arnish as a fabrication yard and the ineptitute of our Scottish Executive at providing sustainable and meaningful developments inorder to support the failing Western Isles economy. I also support and endorse your comments regarding the shortcommings of current trends in renewable energy. Good on you Arnish Lighthouse.

K. Burns from Glasgow

I totally agree with all your well made comments on the demise of Arnish as a fabrication yard and the ineptitute of our Scottish Executive at providing sustainable and meaningful developments inorder to support the failing Western Isles economy. I also support and endorse your comments regarding the shortcommings of current trends in renewable energy. Good on you Arnish Lighthouse.

K. Burns from Glasgow

I totally agree with your comments on the demise of Arnish Point as a fabrication yard and the Scottish Executive's ineptitute at providing sustainable and meaningful developments there inorder to support the failing Western Isles economy. I also support your stance and comments on the shortcommings of current trends in renewable energy and the sole reliance on wind over wave generation of power.

K.A.B from Glasgow

"Although a Scottish invention, trialled in Scotland and produced in Scotland, no effort was made on the part of the Scottish Executive to foster Pelamis for use in Scottish waters" Here is something tha may be of interest: The Executive intends to support a new project in wave power technology that will harness energy from the seas around Scotland, it was confirmed today. 30/08/2006 "Earlier this year I announced £8 million funding for marine energy projects and we intend to invest a share of this to secure a Pelamis project in Orkney at the European Marine Energy Centre. I want to see wave power devices operating in Scottish waters by next summer. Read the article here:

Calum Dhu from Shawbost

K. Burns, many thanks for your expressions of support. And Calumannabel, it is NOT my intention to rip island culture apart. It seems I was wrong in assuming no work was done on Sundays - I stand corrected.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

Some 14 years ago when I started an engineering degree at Cardiff, my Professor talked about wave power and he was involved in the design and testing of a unit on the coast of Mull (I think). It had been successfully and quite efficiently working for at least a year. Why then has our Government dragged its heals over adopting this technology, and only now, over a decade later, decided it had better make a start on "green energy" by building as many ineffecient wind turbines as it can. Early wind power adopters like Belgium have shown that wind farms are not the best solution for many reasons. Curiously when I was down Arnish yard the other night I saw quite a few large, white, round tubes being assembled, presumably wind turbines. Are these for export (for Beatrice oilfield like you say) or to be put on Lewis in areas where planning permission is easier to pass like along the North Lochs road? - the last few months there has been 3 round foundations laid with service roads and a nearby power line..... It is sad that Arnish and its skilled workers do not have a certain future and unfortunately it's a reflection of the rapidly declining engineering and manufacturing state of the U.K. The future of jobs within the Isles, in my opinion, lies with greater adoption of high-speed networks and associated jobs that are able to utilise such connections and the skillbase of the islanders.

Bluewave from Lewis

So why all the surprise at the demise of the Arnish yard? People in the UK don't want renewable technology on their doorsteps. After all wind farms and wave machines amount to industrialization of the countryside. They are inefficient and harm the environment – right? The upshot is that instead of this yard being a world leader in renewable technology fabrication with a full book of local orders, it is closing down. Instead we will import technology from countries that unlike the UK have a clear vision for the future and are not afraid to implement it. It is very sad to see these jobs lost in the Western Isles but I'm not at all surprised. You can not on the one hand fight tooth and nail against renewable development, and then not expect there to be repercussions for industry and jobs. It is ironic that apart from a few wind turbine towers most of the machines built at Arnish have gone elsewhere in Europe; that speaks volumes for me. Once, the UK led the way with wind turbine development; that has now been lost and we now lag far behind Europe. Once we lead the way with wave power development; we still can but does anyone really think that the people that objected to wind farms won’t object to wave machines? The sad fact - no one wants this technology in their own back yard. The west highlands and islands have the greatest wind and wave potential in Europe. It looks as if we are going to fail to invest and harness it. If we want yards like Arnish to survive; if we want to keep and encourage highly skilled workers to these islands then we have to start setting a bold example to the rest of the UK; we have to start investing in this technology now and make the Western Isles a centre for renewable power generation and renewable technology research and development.

SkyeMartyn from Skye

Hmm, couple of dubious assumptions there, SkyeMartyn, such as assuming that people objecting to the two horrendous wind factories planned for north Lewis and Eishken would also object to wave power projects. I'm not at all sure this would be the case - in fact I'm fairly sure that it wouldn't be the case, for the most part anyway, and certainly not if the option was for EITHER the industrial-scaled windfarms OR a wave/tidal system.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

p.s. I forgot about your other dubious assumption, SkyeMartyn, ie. assuming that people were 'surprised' at the demise of the Arnish yard. I don't think very many people at all were surprised, not here in Lewis anyway.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

Jimmy, I sincerely hope my assumption is wrong and that support for wave power is much higher than for the wind “factories”. Given the main reason for objection against wind turbines being the effects on Eagles I fail to see how those so concerned with protecting one set of wildlife could allow other schemes to go ahead that will also harm wildlife. Wave machines may well harm marine life, just as wind turbines may well harm birds. On your second point, I really am not surprised about the demise of this yard especially given the timing of its reopening and it coinciding with applications for renewable projects across the West Highlands. Due to objections those schemes have failed to materialise and so the Arnish is struggling. That is no surprise. Now, if there is strong support in Lewis (or anywhere else for that fact) for wave machines or any other renewable technology then the public need to be banging on the doors of their MPs and MSP telling them that they want the yard at Arnish to survive. The only way for that to happen is for the public to insist their politicians represent their interests by committing to implement wave power systems off the coast of Lewis. The simple fact is that so far this has not happened. Given the level of opposition there has been towards current renewable projects in the Western Isles and elsewhere I can therefore make only one assumption. After all, if wind “factories” are industrialisation of the land, then wave machines and tidal barrages must surely be industrialisation of the marine environment. Or, is it just a case of “out of sight out of mind”?

SkyeMartyn from Skye

Quote: "Given the main reason for objection against wind turbines being the effects on Eagles". What utter nonsense, SkyeMartyn: where on earth did this amazing statistic come from? Amec? Our fabulous MSP? If you're serious in that assertion, it shows you have very, very little grasp of what is happening here in Lewis and Harris. I'd suggest you need to do more research (a lot more) on the reasons thousands of Hebrideans are fighting these ludicrous proposals.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

This discussion was originally about the future of a heavy engineering plant on the island,and basically there is'nt one.The production of pylons for the wind farms is only one contract,and no business can survive on that basis,there are plenty of manufacturers on the mainland and in europe competing for every scrap of this work.Employing Polish workers at the site does nothing to help the local economy as every penny they can spare will be sent back to Poland.When Lewis offshore was set up in the early seventies they were tied up in knots by the Stornoway trust with regard to Sunday working.The workforce at that time came mainly from the island and included an aprenticeship scheme to try to encourage young people to stay on the island. My earlier entry may have been slightly facetious but I can see no hope for this factory on the island.

Paul Marsh from Derbyshire

Jimmy. You seem to have totally missed the point of the post. Put simply, Arnish is a fabrication yard that currently specialises in building renewables projects, mainly of two types; wave machines and wind turbines. Lewis, along with other areas of the West Highlands have proposals for small, medium and large scale wind development and large scale wave development, and as a co-incidence Arnish reopened a few years back (presumably to fulfil the perceived local fabrication needs and provide employment). However, the large scale orders the yard expected to receive have failed to materialise. This means rather than having books full of orders it has none, and a company with no orders is simply not viable. My point is this; Arnish has a very viable future, but it needs local orders. Lewis is sat on massive renewable potential, the biggest in Europe, and wind is the most viable today. I fully understand the reasons people have objected to the wind farms on Lewis and Harris, because they are the same as on Skye (same arguments, smaller schemes). That’s fair enough, but I'm afraid the demise of Arnish in my opinion is down simply to lack of local orders and the lack of local orders is linked directly to objections to renewable schemes. That is my point; I think Arnish is viable; I want to see skilled jobs in Lewis and Skye; I want to see large and small scale renewable projects in the Highlands; I want to see those projects built locally in Lewis and the benefits ploughed back into the local economies. One final point, I do not want to see wind farms covering every hill, mountain and bog, and I do not think that will happen. I also would prefer to see local communities own their own renewable projects such as in Barra and Harris, not the likes of AMEC. This is not an ideal world though, and this is a poor area of the country where communities have much more pressing projects to spend their hard earned money on. We therefore need investment from outside. The decisions on wind farms or wave machines around Lewis and Harris are for the people of Lewis and Harris alone. Those decisions link directly to the future of other industries locally. Arnish does have a future; but it is reliant on local orders, and weather or not those orders materialise is solely in the hands of the people of Lewis.

SkyeMartyn from Skye

Maybe the Polish workers (if they are such) will stay and bring in their families. I suspect the families of hard working, skilled, ambitious/adventurous Poles could be an asset to the islands. Let us not be xenophobic. There are after all millions of British emigrants all over the world.

mjc from NM,USA

Is there a lack of control over monies invested by the Scottish government into projects like this ? do they know about the 1/2 million pound heating system that never ran as it was too expensive to fuel (even before recent energy cost rises)? One would hope that the repeated demise of the Lewis 'yard' despite continued heavy investment, would have somebody in the Scottish exec. scratching their head by now ? Shame on them.

QHSE from Anglesey

I totally agree with SkyeMartyn when he says that "Arnish does have a future; but it is reliant on local orders, and weather or not those orders materialise is solely in the hands of the people of Lewis." We have a wonderful opportunity to exploit a natural resource both on and offshore in the Western Isles. Granted the proposed land based wind farms would need to use between 1and 5 percent of the moorland to be viable but the benifits would far outweigh the drawbacks. Lets face it, the moors are no more than a barren wasteland. Are we going to miss out again as our forefathers did with Lord Leverhume? We can work with the people who will,without doubt, give these wind farms the go ahead and as a population reap the benifits or have them imposed on us and gain nothing.

Semi retired guga hunter from Lewis

SRGH, you use the word 'exploit', but is it 'we' who are going to exploit a natural resource, or is it we who are being exploited? That's a good one about Leverhulme - our ancestors certainly 'missed out' alright - missed out on becoming Stornoway factory lackeys with no contact with their own land. The problem with Leverhulme was that a) he had no idea when he bought Lewis & Harris that farm land was promised by the Board of Agriculture to the men returning from war, so serves him right for not doing his research properly, b) it transpired that, rich as he was, he simply didn't have the necessary funds to get anywhere near completing even half his projects, tied up as it was in Sunlight soap etc., and c) he misread the character of the islanders, many more of whom were against his schemes than people make out now (there was plenty of spin around even in the 1920s, but not as much as there is now). I often wonder - if Leverhulme had got his way with the fish canneries etc. in Stornoway, how many decades earlier would the seas round the Hebrides and beyond have been fished dry?

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

Jimmy, quite true what you say about Leverhume not having fully researched the impications of "promises" made by the Board of Agriculture but history shows that these promises did little to stop the mass emigration from the Western Isles in the 1920`s and later. I don`t see much agriculture or farming being carried out in Lewis or Harris so why not use the land for another purpose? We must adapt to survive. The seas around the Hebridies have been fished out and continue to be further decimated by fishermen from the East coast of Scotland, England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Russia, Spain, France, Portugal to name but a few. Would it not have been better if the locals had prospered - however briefly, from that natural resource? When North Sea oil runs out in 20 to 50 years time and the oil companies decide to extract the oil reserves to the North and West of our islands, will the native population (if there are any natives left) go against any projects that might scar the landscape or destroy a few acres of peatland? With current attitudes - very probably!!

Semi retired guga hunter from Lewis

I am surprised to read SRGH's comments. The moorland is an integral part of island culture, the place where the crofters would go in summer to shielings with their cattle. It is the subject of many a fireside tale and quite a few songs - which is one of the reasons that people are opposed. One of many. The other is that because there are only a few people in Lewis, so the powers that be reckon they can get away with a monstrous project, which would be rejected out of hand with a riot in the House of Commons if proposed for the South Downs [Sussex & Surrey].

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

Are you really surprised A.L. ? Some of the people who object to these proposed projects wouldn`t know about sheilings or what they were used for if one fell on their heads. I don`t see too many cattle the moors these days, do you? There`s a very good reason for this - no money in it. You will always have your songs and fireside tales but reminiscing about "The Good Old Days" when my grannie had to carry a creel full of butter or fish or peats to and from a sheiling for miles through peat bogs so that a few meagre crops could be grow in and around the village where she lived will not encourage many of today`s youngsters to make their homes on these islands. The "few" (especially Macleod`s, Morrison`s, Macaulay`s and Macdonald`s) are getting fewer by the day - locals moving away to secure stable employment - incomers offering insane prices for property in the Western Isles but bringing little to the economy and making it even more difficult for young locals to get onto the property ladder. The "powers that be" as you call them will push there projects through no matter how many "Good Life" types jump up and down. The important point here is to secure the best possible outcome and benifits for the Western Isles.

Semi retired guga hunter from Lewis

If the enterprise agency had paid Cambrian what they owed for craneage and demurrage the yard would still be operating under the control of the only UK business successful in the renewables sector. Sadly in Camcal's hands it is dead in Wales as well.

Dai from Bangor, north Wales

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