Categories: NewsletterPublished On: 13.05.2021689 words3.4 min read

A fully integrated fishing hub is at the heart of Peterhead Port Authority’s recent £51 million investment project.


Confidence and ambition – these were the drivers behind Peterhead Port Authority’s decision in 2016 to embark on a £51 million development, its largest ever investment and one that has transformed the port, putting in place the building blocks for an even more successful future.

Within this massive investment, the new £9 million fish market was opened at Alexandra Basin in 2018. At the heart of a fully integrated fishing hub, the market inevitably took most of the headlines – but the expansion has also been vital for the Port’s activities across offshore oil & gas, decommissioning and renewable energy.

The major package of works, which started in 2016, included:

  • Construction of a new fish market with 80% more floor space, with covered landing canopies for vessels discharging privately sold fish.
  • Dredging of the inner harbour to increase depth from 3.5 metres to 6.5 metres, which means that all current fishing vessels can now land fish at any stage of the tide.
  • Strengthening of surrounding quaysides.
  • Widening of the inner harbour entrance from 10.5 metres to 16.5 metres and also lengthening the lift bridge, Queenie Bridge, to improve access to and navigation in the inner harbour.
  • Removing the old fish market at Merchants Quay and dredging the berth to 7.5 metres to create a 180-metre deepwater and sheltered quay for commercial use.
  • Using the dredged material from the inner harbour for land reclamation at Smith Quay – tripling the space available to 48,000 square metres and creating a huge working area for NorSea.

The project was granted £4.4 million of funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Scottish Government.

The architects for the fish market were Arch Henderson and the main contractor was Chap Construction. The engineers for the harbour works were the RPS Group and McLaughlin and Harvey/ Boskalis formed a joint venture as the main contractor.


Development Challenges

How does a port continue to operate in the midst of major development work? That was the challenge for Peterhead, as the new fish market and major harbour developments took place during 2017 and 2018. “It was a big challenge running the port and doing a development of that size”, says Harbour Master John Forman. “Fish landings were at their highest ever levels, but we were successful in keeping vessel and market operations going smoothly.

“Our marine staff were very busy in the control tower, especially as they had to co-ordinate the movement of barges dredging and moving material to the reclamation area. When we finished one part of the project and tidied up, we then started on the next. For example, we knocked down the old fish market almost immediately after moving out and flattened the site as quickly as possible to prepare it for NorSea”.

Now that the major development is complete, the harbour maintenance and marine teams are focusing on routine maintenance and upgrading work. “There is always fendering to replace, painting to be done and other work to keep the port in top quality condition”, says Forman.

The last auction in the old fish market was held on a Friday; the first sales in the new market were on the Monday. “Everything was moved from one to the other over the weekend, mostly by our own Peterhead Port Authority staff”, he says. “The market was operating from June and officially opened by Prince Charles in September 2018”.

In another extraordinary logistical achievement, the new fish market was used for the opening ceremony, which took place at the same time as the town’s Fish Festival. The market was cleaned and washed down after the Friday auction and set up with carpets, tables and chairs for an opening ceremony held between 10am and 3pm on Saturday.

Some 500 guests enjoyed a three-course meal at which different types of fish were served.

By 7pm on the Saturday, the market was cleared again, and it was washed down ready to receive fish landings again from noon on Sunday.

As Forman says: “People couldn’t believe that we could turn the fish market into a dining area so quickly – and back again”.