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Ice research ship lifeline for Portsmouth shipbuilding?

May 1, 2014 by Tez

Portsmouth’s shipbuilding industry has been taking a battering of late. Ever since BAE Sytems confirmed the axing of jobs in 2013, and moving operations to Scotland, the city has been on tenterhooks and desperate to secure commercial contracts.

Shipbuilding has been the cities bread and butter for many years and a large number of the workforce, and related chain businesses, could find themselves out on a limb if it dries up.

Recently plans for a new polar research vessel have prompted calls for the government to have the ship built in Portsmouth. This would save many jobs and throw a lifeline to the ailing industry.

Chancellor George Osbourne announced funding for a scientific survey ship of £200m will be made available which will put Britain at the forefront of Antarctic and Arctic Ocean research.

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock sent a letter to business secretary Vince Cable saying: ‘This represents a massive opportunity to right the wrongs that were inflicted on the people of Portsmouth through no fault of their own.

I understand EU regulations mean the government will have to listen to bids from other countries who may wish to build the vessel. I would argue it is absolutely essential the government does the right thing – build the vessel in the UK and put the Portsmouth dockyard and its workforce back into work and retain those shipbuilding skills before they are lost forever.’

The UK’s two current polar exploration ships, RSS Ernest Shackleton and RSS James Clark Ross, are nearing the end of service which the new vessel will go towards replacing. On board will be laboratories boasting cutting edge technology – robotic submarines gathering data on marine and oceanic conditions, one such example.

Another Portsmouth MP, Penny Mordant, also added to the calls. She is trying to secure a date to discuss the idea with George Osborne. She commented: ‘This is a great opportunity, I have requested a meeting with the chancellor about it, along with a number of other things to do with the dockyard.

The timetable of this suits us well because they will be putting this out to tender now and the ship would be in its trials in 2018 – we are looking at moving very quickly on this.

It is clearly the sort of ship that our local workforce is all about.’

Prospect Union are also pressing for the same outcome with John Ferrett believing this to be an excellent opportunity for securing shipbuilding capability within Portsmouth. He’s urging BAE Systems to bid for this work.

‘Prospect firmly believes the government and business should work together to secure this order for UK shipbuilding and provide a lifeline for those facing the loss of their livelihood in Portsmouth.’ He said.

‘Furthermore, the ongoing need to build new ships for the navy and the maritime sector provides a strong argument for maintaining a shipbuilding capability in Portsmouth Naval Base.’






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