Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Devon’s newly reopened Appledore Shipyard has a bright future as a centre for “green” shipping and even hinted it might receive Government contracts as part of a plan to make the UK a “shipbuilding superpower”.
The Tory supremo, in a visit to the Devon facility, stressed reigniting the ship-building industry at the yard, which has had chequered history, would not be easy, but the Government and its new owners were “very determined”.
Mr Johnson was visiting the location on the day it was announced the former Babcock International Group Plc yard, which closed in 2019, had been bought by Harland and Wolff owner InfraStrata in a £7million deal.
It is now expected that the yard will restart production, bringing an economic boost to North Devon and 350 jobs to Appledore.
An aerial image of Appledore shipyard in North Devon (Image: Tim Western)
Mr Johnson said it was “fantastic” to be in Appledore and talk to some of the workforce, including the apprentices, and “the people who are looking for a future in shipbuilding here in Devon”
And he said: “It’s got some incredible history but has been through some very tough times and we are hoping we can get a good order book going. It’s hard and the COVID crisis has not made things any easier, but I’m very confident there are things I can do to get jobs and growth going here.
“There is one particular thing, a seed I want to plant in your imagination: green shipping. Maritime transport is incredibly polluting and there is scope for Harland and Wolff to capitalise and develop their plans for low carbon, even hydrogen vessels, and we really want to support that.”
The Prime Minister also hinted, without giving specifics, that contacts could come the way of the newly named Harland and Wolff (Appledore) yard.
He said: “There are potential contracts, for reasons of commercial confidentiality and because of the procurement process, I can’t go into the things I might like to see here, but I’m hopeful.
“It’s important not to over-promise, but I do think there is a potential for a fantastic future here, if we can get things moving fast enough. I think we can. If you look at Rosyth, at Govan, at the places we are building ships around the UK at the moment, all the yards are full and it stretches on for years and years and years.
“So we have demand and we need to get Appledore and indeed Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, ready to start making things again. That’s the plan. I won’t pretend it is going to be easy, but we are very determined.”
InfraStrata, which calls itself a “leading strategic infrastructure projects and physical asset lifecycle management company”
During his visit, the PM unveiled a plaque to mark the return of shipbuilding to the yard and met with InfraStrata’s chief executive John Wood.
He also spent time speaking with engineering apprentices and students from Petroc College and supply chain businesses, who hailed the re-opening of the shipyard following its closure in March 2019.
The Prime Minister said: “This exciting new chapter for Appledore will create hundreds of new jobs in the South West and beyond and will drive forward our ambitions to become a shipbuilding superpower.
“This kind of investment in UK skills and expertise is more important than ever as we build back better, and it’s essential that we back British businesses to fulfil their potential both at home and overseas.
“From apprentices just starting out, to entrepreneurs and sector leaders representing our world-class industries on the global stage, our focus is on making sure that everyone has equal access to the opportunities and support they need to succeed so that we can truly level up and unite our country.”
The Appledore deal follows UK-based InfraStrata’s acquisition of the famous Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast in 2019 and reinforces the company as a major player in the UK maritime and offshore engineering industry.
“We’re pleased to have been able to acquire this historic shipyard and its rich maritime heritage,” said Mr Wood.
“Harland and Wolff (Appledore) has a key role to play as part of an exciting new era for UK shipyards and shipbuilding; supporting UK industry and revitalising economic growth here in the South West.”
Opened in 1865, the Appledore shipyard has a rich history of shipbuilding. More than 300 vessels have been built there; including military craft, bulk carriers, LPG carriers, superyachts, ferries, and oil-industry support vessels.
Jointly the InfraStrata group has the potential of employing 1,550 people – 800 at Harland and Wolff (Belfast), 350 at Harland and Wolff (Appledore), and 400 during the construction phase of the Islandmagee gas storage project.
Source : Business Live