Shipping & Shipbuilding News - 5 March 2007 - The Brightest Maritime Daily

Shipyard workers meet to hear fate - yard could close says union

It now looks certain, following meetings held today at the Clyde shipyard of Ferguson Shipbuilders, that the vast majority of the workers employed there are to lose their jobs.

Out of 126 jobs, 99 would be axed - 86 manual and 13 technical, according to Jim Moohan, chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.

"The news was worse than we thought as I have been advised that 99 staff are to be made redundant," he told reporters ,"That will leave a very limited staff of around 30 left behind. "

The yard has been struggling for survival for some time, but a lack of orders and complications with the tendering process for a new fisheries protection vessel appear to have finally bit hard.

Mr Moohan fears it could be the end of shipbuilding on the lower Clyde but he claims it is in the Scottish Executive's gift to save the yard, by immediately awarding the contract to build the 14 million pound fisheries vessel. However on a TV news bulletin a BBC reporter said that the Executive's response was that the review of the tendering process that caused the disruption was on-going and that even when it was resolved, the whole tender process would have to be gone through again.

This would mean a minimum of six months before any contract could be awarded, and there were no guarantees that Ferguson's would win in any case.

Workers leaving the yard, though not surprised, (as Jim Moohan had already warned them the majority of their jobs were to go), were still stunned and shocked at the prospects of the yard closing, ending over 100 years of shipbuilding at the Port Glasgow yard. Some of the men have worked there since leaving school and had followed their fathers into the yard.

The only visible sign of shipbuilding work at the yard now is the fitting out of the Calmac car ferry LOCH SHIRA at the repair quay.

In an earlier report in The Scotsman newspaper, Dr Alf Baird, head of the maritime research group at Napier University in Edinburgh, said that the fate of Ferguson Shipbuilders was made inevitable by its "lack of proven designs of its own" and "weak purchasing power" after the failure of family-owned shipyards to consolidate to achieve economies of scale, or to forge partnerships with international market leaders.

He also attacked Calmac for "inefficient practices" and said that with "more enterprising leadership", the state-owned company could have helped sustain a thriving "high-end" shipbuilding industry in Scotland.

Ferguson Shipbuilders in recent times have depended on ships ordered from state concerns to survive. The last commercial ship contract between them and a private firm was in 2003 when they built the car ferry SOUND OF SHUNA for local ferry operators Western Ferries. Prior to this they had what was hoped to be a long term customer in the shape of Stirling Shipping of Glasgow, but when the offshore vessel company was sold to American firm Seacor, expected newbuild orders dried up.

Whilst many commentators blame Ferguson's woes on the lack of positive state intervention, others say Ferguson's simply have not adapted to a rapidly changing shipbuilding market.

There have been no official statements from Ferguson Shipbuilders themselves since this story broke on Friday, with no-one available for comment.

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