A WESTER Ross company that has grown from a one-man operation to a firm employing 10 people has started work on its biggest contract to date.
Applecross-based Northwind Engineering has been given the green light by Scottish Sea Farms to build a new state-of-the-art landing craft worth £700,000.
The order was this week hailed as a "fantastic show of support" in the firm which has carried out a series of contracts for the Norwegian-owned salmon producer which has bases from Shetland to Stirling.
Not only is the landing craft the engineering firm’s biggest project to date in terms of value, it’s also its biggest in terms of physical size too, measuring 17.5m long and 7.25m wide.
It is equipped with an Amco Veba crane with a 30-tonne lift and boasts an overall deck load of 35 tonnes. The vessel will be powered by two Doosan engines whose advanced technologies offer maximum fuel efficiency with minimum emissions.
The project is the latest in a long line of contracts from Scottish Sea Farms that have helped Northwind Engineering grow from a one-man company to a 10-strong team and support four apprentice engineers from the local community.
Company founder Ewen Gillies said: "We have been working with Scottish Sea Farms almost as long as we have been in business, progressing from carrying out feed barge modifications, re-fitting boats and converting feed barges to the design, build and manufacture of all-new boats such as this latest landing craft.
"It’s been a fantastic show of support in our engineering skills and one that has enabled us to make major improvements such as the addition of a custom-built indoor workshop, where we can stay on-programme whatever the weather, and a new boat hoist, slipway and trailer."
The contract award comes on the back of news that Scottish Sea Farms spent in excess of £100m – 85 per cent of total supplier spend – procuring goods and services from 709 local businesses in 2017, many of them small to medium-sized enterprises like Northwind Engineering.
That record spend is up £13.9m on 2016 and is, says the firm, driven by a long-standing company policy to buy Scottish wherever possible.
Jim Gallagher, managing director for Scottish Sea Farms, said: "The communities in which we farm are integral to our success, from their natural resources to their local workforces and businesses.
"It seems only fitting therefore that these same communities should derive maximum value in return; something we are proud to have grown again in 2017 – and will strive to continue growing in 2018 and beyond."
As a whole, it’s estimated that salmon farming contributes £558 million to the national economy in gross added value and generates a total spend of £390m on local suppliers and services.
The new landing craft is due for delivery in August 2018 and is destined for Scottish Sea Farms’ salmon farm at Loch Nevis.
Scottish Sea Farms has been in operation for more than 40 years and is owned by SalMar and the Lerøy Seafood Group ASA of Norway.