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Onshore News: Stenmar goes into receivership

Posted on 05.01.2004 - 05:44 EST in ONSHORE NEWS by admin

The Aberdeen company behind a new £2.5million tourist attraction at Fort William has called in the receivers - only four months after the doors opened.

About 30 jobs were created when the Ocean Frontier centre was opened on the shores of Loch Linnhe at the end of August by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

It was built by subsea group Stenmar, which already ran the Underwater Centre commercial diving school in Fort William.

Joint receiver Blair Nimmo, of KPMG, said yesterday that Stenmar had gone into receivership because of factors including cost overruns and delays in completing the construction of Ocean Frontier.

Stenmar employed 72 staff in Fort William and Aberdeen, and more than 20 between the two locations have already been made redundant.

Mr Nimmo said the redundancies had been necessary so the group could continue to trade until a buyer was found.

"We are quite hopeful a buyer will emerge," he said. "Stenmar had a level of debt it could not finance - it could be somewhere around £3million."

Highland Council's Lochaber area convener, Olwyn Macdonald, said she was shocked to hear the news.

"This is terrible, a big disappointment to Fort William," she said. "A lot of money has been put into the centre and it would have been a big tourist asset.

"I personally think the centre opened at the wrong time.

"It should have opened at the start of the tourist season, in April or May.

"I really hope a buyer for the centre can be found because it certainly could do a lot for the local economy."

Fort William and District Chamber of Commerce chairman John Steel said he was extremely disappointed to hear of the centre's plight.

"Ocean Frontier looked like it was going to be a great facility," he said. "The place had already brought a lot of good publicity to the town. I know folk travelled here to see it.

"I think there is definitely an opportunity for someone to take over the centre and it has surely got to be viable once it's up and running. It would be an awful thing to lose the centre with all the quality training for North Sea divers that has already taken place there."

The Stenmar group was formed more than a decade ago, and Mr Nimmo said it had been a sustainable business before the Ocean Frontier venture.

The company also has a commercial-diver training centre in Tasmania, Australia.

Facilities in Aberdeen include Stenmar Sonavision, the business's manufacturing and design house.

Stenmar managing director Don McGregor declined to comment when contacted by the Press and Journal about the receivership.

Lib Dem leader Mr Kennedy said when he opened Ocean Frontier: "I am delighted to see such a facility, which will not only be valuable for tourism, but is a great asset for education and the subsea industry."

The centrepiece of the complex, which is next to Stenmar's Underwater Centre, is a 1.4million-litre pool, where visitors can experience subsea technology from dry land.

The vast pool replicates an Atlantic reef and features a shipwreck, a real wellhead and authentic flora and fauna, which can all be explored with remotely operated vehicles.

Mr McGregor said at the time: "Ocean Frontier has allowed me to channel our expertise in the fields of diving and underwater sonar and bring them to a far wider audience."

It was hoped that the facility could attract 50,000 visitors a year.

The centre was built on the site of a former sewage works at An Aird.

Source: The Press & Journal
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