Carrier deal has landed

03 Jul 2008

by Gordon Thomson, Evening Times

Clyde shipyard workers were today told they will begin building Britain's biggest warships next year amid rising expectations of more multi-million pound defence contracts.

The government signed off a multi-billion pound contract for two giant aircraft carriers today - HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales - which will together cost £3.9billion.

For workers at the Scotstoun and Govan yards the contract brings a guarantee of employment for thousands of staff for years to come - and hopes of work for up to 30 years.

A third of the costs - more than £1.3bn - is to be spent on the Clyde and at a sister yard in Portsmouth and will secure carrier work in Glasgow for the next eight years.

Both super-sized ships will be launched at Rosyth. HMS Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to come into service in 2014 with the other two years later.

The workload is being shared among five sites - Scotstoun, Govan, Rosyth, Portsmouth and Barrow in Furness. Each site will assemble giant hull blocks which will be brought by sea for final assembly at Rosyth.

The Clyde has been given one of the most complicated sections. The work won by Scotstoun and Govan will involve the engine room for both carriers and will be extremely detailed.

But the expertise of the 3500-strong workforce is world renowned and their skills will be used to aid their less experienced colleagues at Rosyth. Hundreds of Clydesiders will travel to the Fife town to help build the bow of each warship.

The contract was today signed on board the Royal Navy's flagship carrier Arc Royal at a ceremony in Portsmouth. Other ceremonies were held on the Clyde and at Rosyth.

Defence Secretary Des Browne told workers at Govan: "This is truly a national project, involving companies from the Clyde to the Solent. Work will create or sustain around 10,000 UK jobs at the peak of production.

"Today's contract signing seals the future for thousands of jobs, and ensures we will have a Royal Navy fit for the 21st century."

He was joined by Rear Admiral Philip Jones, the Flag Officer for Scotland, who said: "These ships, with their embarked aircraft, will provide the UK with a potent and powerful aircraft carrier force that will deliver air power in support of the full range of future operations at sea, in the air and on land."

Union leaders are also delighted. Bernie Hamilton, Unite's national officer for shipbuilding and aerospace, said: "This is a landmark day for the shipbuilding industry in the UK and particularly for the Clyde because it will sustain shipbuilding for decades."

Senior GMB official Jim Noolan, who chairs the Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions Scotland, hailed the carrier deal by declaring: "It is a new era for Clydeside."

He believes the contract highlights the skills of the Clyde workforce and predicts the project will trigger orders which will maintain Glasgow shipbuilding for the next 30 years.

The new carriers also quash fears of possible job losses because of a gap in work.

Work on the Queen Elizabeth starts in around nine months at a time when the Scotstoun and Govan yards are currently involved in building a fleet of six Type 45 destroyers.

The last is due to be launched in October 2010, which will guarantee "seamless" working from one major contract to another.

And today there's another boost for the Clyde.

Yard bosses along with union leaders, navy chiefs and the government are working hard behind the scenes to push forward the "future surface combatant" project - a blueprint for up to 18 new frigates.

Industry insiders were today hopeful the project will be agreed and ready to start immediately work on the carriers come to an end.

Reproduced with the permission of The Evening Times(Glasgow) © Newsquest (Herald & Times) Ltd.

  • Ships at BVT Surface Fleet on the River Clyde