Contract is big step on road to SLP recovery

OFFSHORE engineering firm SLP is set to recruit 60 staff after securing its first major contract since being bought out of administration.

The company, based at Hamilton House, Lowestoft – now owned by Dutch steel corporation Smulders Group – has been awarded a project to build a 750-tonne jacket structure for a sub-station at a wind farm off the Belgian coast.

While the value of the contract and the identity of the customer have not been made public, bosses say the work will create about 60 jobs on top of the 50 already employed at SLP. Work is set to begin in the New Year.

SLP called in administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers in November last year, after becoming embroiled in a �60m legal dispute with a former customer, Maersk.

The company – which at its peak employed about 1,000 – continued to operate under PwC's control, completing work on a nine-storey offshore accommodation module in July, before Smulders acquired the site and a core of about 44 staff in August.

The new contract marks a first step in Smulders' attempt to cash in on the UK's burgeoning offshore wind sector, with thousands of turbines planned off the country's coasts, and away from SLP's traditional oil and gas markets.

SLP managing director Paul Thomson said: 'We have been successful in a contract to build a jacket structure for an electricity substation at a wind farm off the coast of Belgium, which will be kicking off in January.

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'We currently employ about 50 and will be looking to take on another 60 as a result.

'It is good news from the shop window point of view to have work on the yard coming on in the new year.

'We are also tendering and pre-qualifying for work and are confident of pulling more work in as 2011 progresses.'

Mr Thomson said the company was also chasing other work 'very aggressively', with potential for further contracts in the spring and the second half of next year.

He added: 'We are also engaging with the market again and need to make sure people know we are about and in business.'

SLP, which has more than 40 years' experience in oil and gas, was among East Anglia's 25 largest firms in 2008, turning over about �120m.