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Christmas jobs boost for Lowestoft company

PUBLISHED: 09:08 27 December 2011

There she goes: a previous SLP module disappears into the distance, bound for the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Picture: Peter Eyles www.peter-eyles.co.uk

There she goes: a previous SLP module disappears into the distance, bound for the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Picture: Peter Eyles www.peter-eyles.co.uk

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A LOWESTOFT company has been delivered an early Christmas gift - after winning a multi-million pound contract that will create 100 new jobs.

SLP Engineering has secured a deal with offshore giant Nexen Petroleum to build an accommodation module to house 140 North Sea oil workers.

The announcement was this week welcomed as “fantastic news” for Waveney at a time when unemployment in the district remains among the highest in the region. It comes just days after the proposed 140-turbine Galloper offshore wind farm cleared a major planning hurdle – raising hopes that North Suffolk could benefit from a multi-million-pound investment and thousands of new jobs.

For SLP, the contract success also signals a major turnaround in fortunes. Just over a year ago, the company’s future looked bleak after it went into administration, laying off hundreds of workers.

But after being bought by Dutch company Smulders Group, it has sought to rebuild its reputation and it has now secured the work for Nexen Petroleum’s Golden Eagle area development project – a major oil field about 43 miles from Aberdeen.

SLP Engineering, based at Hamilton Dock in Hamilton Road, will carry out all the engineering, procurement and construction work on the 2,000-tonne accommodation unit at its Lowestoft yard, where previous modules have become major landmarks as they take shape on the dockside. Work is due to start immediately, with a proposed completion and sail-away date of May 1, 2014.

SLP’s managing director Paul Thomson would not disclose the contract’s value but said the multi-million pound deal was won against fierce UK and International competition.

Reflecting on the past year, Mr Thomson told The Journal: “This time last year we had fewer than 40 employees and they have worked hard to rebuild the company, re-establish our approvals for HSE, quality and environmental management and importantly to re-engage with the energy industry.

“We started 2011 with the construction of an 850-tonne jacket structure for an offshore wind farm – and this opened our shop window. In May, we were awarded an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contract for a ‘minimal facilities platform’ for the southern North Sea, which is currently under construction.”

SLP followed this, he said, by securing a three-year “framework contract” which involves work bringing gas from a new sub-sea development onto an existing platform.

Mr Thomson added: “These contracts have allowed us to increase the number of employees to 126 with a further 10 recruited to start in January. The award by Nexen of this important EPC contract is the perfect end to our first full year of trading as part of the Smulders Group.

“The contract will provide continuity of employment and will create a further 100 jobs for SLP personnel, plus support from suppliers and subcontractors. This provides a significant boost for SLP, the local community and the UK engineering and construction industry.

“We end 2011 on a positive note, having pre-qualified to receive further enquiries and have tenders submitted in order to increase our order book further. This is a testament to hard work of our employees and the Smulders Group and their belief and confidence in SLP.“

Welcoming SLP’s success, Waveney MP Peter Aldous was delighted that a “significant” new contract had been awarded to the company.

Mr Aldous told The Journal: “It is very good news that SLP have won this exciting contract. The energy sector offers considerable potential to create new jobs in Lowestoft, both in oil and gas and the renewable sectors.

“I look forward to working with SLP and other businesses to build on their good work, so that more jobs can be brought to the Waveney area.”

Echoing these sentiments, Lowestoft mayor Tod Sullivan said: “I’m delighted to see SLP winning such a significant contract. The performance of SLP has long been key to the town bringing jobs and prestige to the area.

“I hope that this success will continue. I wish all at SLP success in this contract and hope that the jobs created will be for local people.”

Bruce Provan, Waveney District Council’s cabinet member for economic development, added: “This is fantastic news for SLP, one of Lowestoft’s most important companies and a real boost for Lowestoft, which once again proves that it is a fantastic location to do business.”

After going into administration, SLP’s business was purchased by Smulders Group in August 2010 and its yard is currently busy constructing the minimal facilities platform for operation in the southern North Sea.

Expressing his delight at Nexen’s decision to award the company the contract, Mr Thomson said: “We are delighted to be part of the Golden Eagle Project which is one of the most exciting developments to come from the North Sea this decade.

“SLP is well and truly back in business and this contract alone will provide many local jobs for the next 30 months.”

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