Vosper switch to end 500 years of shipbuilding in Southampton

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Shipbuilding is to end in Southampton after 500 years following yesterday's decision by Vosper Thornycroft to switch its operation to Portsmouth. All 1,200 workers at the Woolston complex, near Southampton, are being offered jobs at Portsmouth, presently the site of a marine repair facility partly owned by Vosper.

Shipbuilding is to end in Southampton after 500 years following yesterday's decision by Vosper Thornycroft to switch its operation to Portsmouth. All 1,200 workers at the Woolston complex, near Southampton, are being offered jobs at Portsmouth, presently the site of a marine repair facility partly owned by Vosper.

Martin Jay, chief executive of the company, said that Portsmouth was the preferred location for the project to build the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer because of space constraints at Woolston. Mr Jay said the move would be subject to successful negotiations with the Ministry of Defence for the lease of land and the securing of shipbuilding contracts. Vosper is presently negotiating the Type 45 contract with BAe Systems, the prime contractor, although sources at the Southampton shipyard accused BAe of dragging its feet in the discussions.

Mr Jay said: "This has been a difficult decision but we must look at our long-term future. A new expanded shipyard at Portsmouth will be the most modern naval shipbuilding facility in the world." He said it would enable the company to compete for future versions of the Type 45 and other projects.

"If we can secure the contracts we need, we very much hope that all of our shipbuilding workforce will move with us. We also realise how strong VT's roots are in Southampton." He added: "This has not been an easy decision, but we believe that concentrating shipbuilding activity in Portsmouth will provide major long-term benefits to the company, the regional economy and employment throughout the Solent area."

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, pointed out that the move would not happen overnight and that any short-term building contracts would be carried out at Woolston until 2003. His organisation would be working with the company to inject new jobs and skills into the Woolston area.

Comments