BASF Callanish bucks the economic downturn

One of the largest private sector employers on Lewis has reported that it was protected from the economic effects of the pandemic thanks to the high quality of its produce, meaning demand remained high all throughout the last year, while other sectors of the economy struggled badly.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3:15 pm
Forklift in operation outside the factory, located on Callanish pier

BASF Callanish employs more than 80 people at its production facility on the west side of the island, where it concentrates on the production of Omega-3 fatty acids for use in the pharmaceutical industry, predominantly for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

German-owned BASF is the largest chemical company in the world and operates in more than 80 countries worldwide with 390 production facilities, generating annual revenue of £59 billion Euros.

It bought out the previous operators of the Callanish site, Equateq, in 2012 and since then has consolidated the operation on the island, providing a number of high quality and highly skilled jobs.

The factory produces ingredients for treating cardiovascular disease

Just weeks before the Covid-19 outbreak emerged in China, the company had introduced a formal plan to deal with any global pandemic, a preventative step which it says helped it greatly over the last year.

According to the company, the facility in Lewis has “established itself as a world-class, reliable supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients”.

Asked how it had fared through the pandemic, site manager Angus Morrison said “because we supply pharmaceutical ingredients for treating cardiovascular diseases the demand for our products has not been affected by the pandemic and is not expected to be”.

However, just like everyone else it had to get used to a new way of working.

“BASF is a global company with operations all over the world and by end of 2019 we had developed a Pandemic Preparedness Plan – although no one at the stage could have predicted the full impact of the pandemic,” said Mr Morrison.

“But because of the experience of other global sites we were able to put measures in place and adapt our operation to the developing situation.

He added: “Our primary focus was to protect the health and well-being of our employees and their families and at the same time continue to provide our pharmaceutical products to patients who depend on them.

“In those areas we were very successful and this is a credit to the dedication and adaptability of the whole team at Callanish.

" The pandemic made us challenge and develop new ways of working, not least in getting used to remote working.”

While the volume of sales remained unaffected, the company was forced to postpone plans on construction for a massive 10 billion-dollar investment programme in southern China, in order to meet the expected demand from the emerging markets in the country and elsewhere in Asia.

Work on a network of new production facilities got underway in November 2019 and, despite the pause in work, the first plant is expected to be completed next year, with the entire investment programme finished by 2030. The Asia-Pacific region -- and especially China – is expected to be the key driver of chemical production.