Shipping & Shipbuilding News - 25 February 2007
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New intake at Clyde shipyards 'best news in years'

It's being hailed as the best news on the Clyde for years and points to a bright and secure future for shipbuilding on Scotland's first industrial river.

BAE SYSTEMS, through its emerging entity Surface Fleet Solutions, is to take on a further 120 apprentices at it's two Glasgow shipyards where the Type 45 destroyer programme is well into its stride.

This will bring the total number of new apprentices at the Clydeside yards to 472 since 2003.

The news is in stark contrast to shockwaves caused on the river at the start of 2003 when it opened with fears for workers jobs following lay-offs at Barrow, with union leaders fearful that workers on the Clyde would be surplus to requirements. Hot on the heels came rumours that BAE SYSTEMS would sell its Glasgow operations if it lost out to Thales in the bidding to win the aircraft carriers project, and the very next week it was confirmed that 265 jobs were indeed to go on the Clyde. It was the beginning of what many feared would turn out to be the Clyde's annus horribilis

But then came an upturn near the end of January 2003 when BAE was confirmed as Prime Contractor for the carrier project. It sent a wave of relief through anxious observers on the river as it placed a huge boost of confidence in BAE and its Clyde divisions.

In March it was announced that the Clyde would be central to the company's surface fleet build, as Barrow had to concentrate on its submarine programme, which was frighteningly behind schedule. This news, whilst a blow for Barrow, was the godsend the Clyde needed as it meant the entire Type 45 programme would be launched on the Scottish river. In the previous year the gloomy talk had been that the Clyde would only launch one of the destroyers and the rest would be launched at Barrow. Psychologically, if nothing else, that would have been a disaster for the Clyde.

Just as the Clyde workers felt they had come through the worst, in May of 2003 the shockwaves returned. This time BAE Systems was reportedly in discussions with General Dynamics about selling its shipbuilding business to them, so said the Times newspaper, alleging that a possible merger between Boeing and BAE was only possible if BAE offloaded its shipyards, which Boeing wanted nothing to do with.

In September 2003 though, the tide began to truly turn as the company announced an influx of 100 apprentices to cope with what was now becoming a burgeoning order book. Vic Emery, the managing director of Naval Ships as it was known then, said: "For far too long people have associated shipbuilding with decline and this shows that we have turned a corner.

"We can see the future of Clyde shipbuilding right here today."

Now in 2007 Mr Emery's words appear to have been spot on as the Clyde sees young men and women continue to enter its shipyards' gates to take up new trades in numbers not seen since the heyday of Clyde shipbuilding.

(Above photo: Copyright 2007 Stuart Cameron)


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