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17Feb94 UK: SCOTS FABRICATION YARDS FACE AXE.

Up to half of Scotland's big offshore fabrication yards face closure in the next few years because of dwindling orders, says a new report.Mackay Consultants of Inverness estimates Scotland's four big fabrication yards ran at just 20 per cent capacity last year, and had to axe 5,500 jobs.It forecasts that in the short term there is little prospect of workloads rising and continued over-capacity could push some yards to the brink.Mackay warns: 'It is possible that the four large platform yards will continue in business through to 1996, with similar workloads to those experienced in 1992 and 1993.'But we believe that it is more likely that at least one, and possibly two, will close down.'The report says North Sea industry orders secured by foreign fabrication yards are the least significant factor hitting the Scottish industry.The fall in oil prices has had the most disastrous effect. As a result, oil companies are reluctant to develop finds and those that do favour cheaper subsea developments tied-back to existing platforms.The yards in Scotland were originally set up to build 10,000 to 20,000 tonne steel jackets and equipment and labour forces are more suited to this type of work than the smaller, more complicated topside modules currently in demand.This is compounded by business rates in Scotland being higher than in England. CONSTRUCTION NEWS