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Burntisland, Fife, lies about ten miles east of the Forth Bridges, on the north shore of the Firth of Forth, where the coastal town has a natural harbour protected by a breakwater.

The town developed as a naval port, and grew to become a major shipbuilding centre in the years between 1918 and 1968. The harbour and dockyard remain a major provider of marine services, and are home to a naval test facility.

Aluminiun works

The town was also chosen as the site of a major aluminium works, and the Burntisland plant of British Aluminium was established in 1917 to produce smelter grade alumina, aluminium oxide, for processing into aluminium. In 1972, the plant switched to production of special chemicals, and in 1982 British Aluminium was acquired by Alcan. In 2002, the plant closed when Alcan withdrew from the business, and no buyer was found for the factory.

By the end of 2003, the speciality hydrate and alumina plant, together with its related technology had been sold to a company in Russia, where the hydrate feedstock and labour costs allowed for commercial viability. The equipment was carefully dismantled, marked, and transported via Burntisland docks first to St Petersburg, and then on to Boxitogorsk. The Bayer chemical plant was decommissioned and sold for scrap, as was all the other remaining equipment left on the site, and the buildings were demolished.

Remediation work was then started on the site. It was essential to ensure compliance with all local and national regulations, and a major environmental site investigation analysed thousands of samples taken from the soil and boreholes, and particular attention was given to the removal of asbestos. Once fully compliant, the remediated site was finally sold to developers in September 2004.

The work followed a VRM (Value Risk Management) approach, estimated to have saved some $1.04 million in cost avoidance. Despite the scale of the task, the remediation work was completed without any recordable health, safety or environmental incidents.

Test facility

Burntisland hosts a QinetiQ facility which carries out Electro Magnetic Signature Services, similar to that at Rosneath and Barons Point. The facility carries out Open Sea Ranging (OSR), Roll Ranging (RR), and Stray Field Ranging (SFR), operating two Open Sea Ranges with depths of 9 metres and 20 metres (restricted to measurement of ferromagnetic signatures only). The ranges can accommodate Mine Counter Measures Vessels (MCMV) or other vessels up to 1,000 tonnes, and submarines or other vessels up to 20,000 tonnes respectively. In addition, RR and SFR tests can be conducted on a co-located range that is suitable for measurements of MCMVs only. Facilities are also provided for the degaussing of naval vessels.

The testing area is reported to have been repositioned in 2003.

HMS Campania

HMS Campania sinking, © pd image
HMS Campania sinking

The former Cunard liner RMS Campania lies on the seabed about one mile off Burntisland, 27 metres down and in two parts.

Built in 1893 and purchased by the Admiralty in 1915, the liner RMS Campanmia was converted into an aircraft carrier and commissioned HMS Campania in April 1916. On the morning of November 5, 1918, the ship was lying at anchor off Burntisland when a sudden Force 10 squall caused the vessel to drag anchor. After colliding with HMS Royal Oak and scraping along HMS Glorious, Campania's engine room began to flood from a hull breach. Her crew was rescued, but Campania was lost, and sank five hours later.

The wreck was designated a site of historic importance in 2001, under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, making it an offence to dive it without a licence.

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Aerial views



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