CMN makes Tyne offer

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The Independent Online
CMN, the French company that gave up its attempt to buy Swan Hunter on Friday, says it wants to resurrect a shipyard on the opposite bank of the Tyne, and build large naval vessels there.

Last week, Fred Henderson, chairman of CMN Support Services, offered the Swan Hunter receiver 'several million pounds' to buy the Hebburn dry dock, as well as the yard's intellectual property rights. These include the company's preliminary work on designs for new amphibious assault ships to replace HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid. In July, the Government asked for tenders for these ships, which will cost a total of pounds 300m to pounds 400m. Mr Henderson says CMN will bid for them if it can buy the dock. 'We would then have to take on 1,000 workers, I would guess,' he said.

The dock was built by Vickers in the 1960s and converted in the 1970s to build tankers. Swan Hunter took it over, but only ever used it to 'park' ships. Mr Henderson said it could be used to construct large vessels, while smaller craft - such as those already made by CMN in Cherbourg - would be built in the old steel works. CMN would spend pounds 10m revamping the dry dock, but would not start investing until it had won definite orders.

CMN decided last week that it could not buy Swan Hunter as a going concern, because it did not have the orders to keep the workforce on and would be faced with huge redundancy costs. A plan to keep the design team employed by giving it a short-term contract collapsed after a disagreement with the receiver on price.

Mr Henderson said he expects to face competition in his bid for Hebburn. Offshore contractors including Amec, which has an oil platform construction yard next to Swan Hunter, are also believed to be interested.