Major Expansion in the Wind for Gael Force Group

Leading marine equipment and services company Gael Force, which started life in the Western Isles, has launched a significant growth plan for a range of key markets with the acquisition of Forres-based Varis Engineering.

The deal complements Gael Force’s existing engineering capabilities and enhances the ambitious firm’s drive to build sales from £15 million to £50 million in the next five years, with further growth envisaged longer term.

There are plans to increase the 30-strong workforce at Varis which specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of pontoons, marinas, access bridges and services, together with new and refurbishment works in both distilleries and waste water treatment works.

The acquisition further expands Gael Force’s capabilities in marine floating infrastructure. The engineering arm of the company has developed from designing and fabricating concrete caisson feed barges for fish farms along with specialist mooring services. It is now also focusing on expanding into the emerging wave and tidal energy industries as well as building pontoons for marinas and harbours and a range of floating homes.

It is another major milestone for Gael Force which has grown from a Hebridean-based manufacturer of fishing creels and pots to a multi-faceted business serving markets throughout the UK, Europe and North America in aquaculture, fishing, offshore renewables and the oil and gas industry.

The current combined Gael Force/Varis engineering sales alone are worth about £10 million and the goal is to double that by 2017 by increasing activity in offshore oil related fabrication, renewable energy work and pontoon sales at home and abroad. Gael Force will also provide additional resources to develop business in maintenance programmes for whisky distilleries in Scotland as well as waste water treatment work.

Stewart Graham, Gael Force Group’s managing director, said the acquisition fitted well into the company’s future development strategy and that the aim is to expand the Moray manufacturing base.

He said: “Varis and their product have been in our sights for quite some time. They are entirely complementary to what we do and we will now be bringing the considerable management skills and resources of the Gael Force Group into the operation to drive our plans forward.

“The Gael Force management has plotted a course of aggressive growth over the next five years across the group to a level of £50 million and this acquisition of Varis takes us a significant step towards that.

“The achievement of this current business objective will place Gael Force in markets that will offer us significant long-term opportunities from where we can plan even further growth.”

Eddie Tomkinson, retiring managing director of Varis, added: “After 17 years of building up Varis, it was important to me that we found a new owner who can secure the company’s future in Forres, provide additional resources to expand on our achievements to date and drive the company forward.

“Gael Force brings all this to Varis and I am delighted that we have completed our share purchase agreement.”

In addition to increasing the marine engineering side of the business, Gael Force has targets to develop marine equipment sales at its Inverness megastore and online shop, with plans to open 2-3 more outlets over the next five years.

The news was welcomed by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing. He said: “This acquisition by Gael Force is significant as it demonstrates the company’s desire not only to develop their existing work but also to move further into new areas such as wave and tidal energy which will be vital to Scotland’s future economy.

“This emerging industry will benefit from Gael Force’s renowned expertise, while the company’s expansion will help to create new employment for the North of Scotland and beyond.”