Shipyard throws off 30-year jinx: Profit announced at Govan as Norwegian owner reports better-than-expected results

THE GOVAN shipyard on the Clyde made a profit of about pounds 1m last year - its first in 30 years - and is expected to make about pounds 3m in 1994.

Kvaerner, the Norwegian group that bought the yard in 1988, said yesterday that Govan was now a quality yard but productivity could be further increased.

Kvaerner has invested more than pounds 30m in new equipment and techniques at Govan, which has a workforce of 1,500, and is now focusing on improving the management and the flexibility of staff. In January it introduced a novel apprenticeship scheme for older workers, enabling semi-skilled staff to upgrade to craft standards.

The breakthrough for Govan emerged as Kvaerner announced better-than-expected taxable profits of pounds 119.4m in 1993, an increase of 41.5 per cent on the year before. The group's nine shipyards increased their profits by 37 per cent to pounds 91.2m and new orders doubled to pounds 1.2bn during the year.

Kvaerner said it was seeking new contracts for Govan, which has enough work to last until 1996. The yard is working on a series of chemical carriers and last year won a contract with Vickers for a helicopter carrier for the Royal Navy.

Kvaerner is one of the world's largest shipbuilders, concentrating on specialist craft rather than bulk carriers or general purpose tankers.

The company predicted a buoyant future for the global shipbuilding business. Contracts for up to 60 natural gas carriers are expected to be placed over the next decade and healthy orders are also anticipated in the cruise liner market.

Jan Magne Heggelund, Kvaerner's vice-president for finance, said: 'We are outperforming expectations on the shipbuilding side. A couple of years ago people thought we could not make money from building ships.'

Kvaerner, which has a British workforce of 4,000, said that its 1993 group performance was helped by a 63 per cent surge in oil and gas profits to pounds 45.2m. The mechanical engineering arm made a loss and the paper and pulp division, while in profit, had a difficult year.

(Photograph omitted)

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