British Shipbuilder on the Move
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British Shipbuilder on the Move


British Shipbuilder on the Move

Vosper Thornycroft has been building warships for the navy for nearly 100 years. The first was launched from its Woolston works on the River Itchen at Southampton in 1907 - but next spring it will launch its last ship from the same yard. Vosper Thornycroft is leaving its hangars and its 50-acre site and moving to a Portsmouth dockyard, some 15 miles down the coast. It may not seem like a major move - but it is. For a start it leaves the maritime city of Southampton without a major shipbuilder, depriving the area of one of its few heavy manufacturing plants. Many small businesses have already begun to close down but, ironically, Vosper is moving because of its own success.

The company has just won a huge new contract to build part of six new destroyers for the navy. The work, which will be carried out in Portsmouth, will guarantee jobs for 1,200 people for at least the next decade, and possibly the next 20 years. But the truth is that shipbuilding has been in decline for much longer than that, and Vosper has only just finished a redundancy programme.
Vosper's spokesman Phil Rood said the difficulty is twofold: "Many countries are now building their own warships and just coming to us for the design and technical expertise. "The Greek navy is a good example. We're designing their next generation of fast-attack craft, but they're the ones building the ships. Ten years ago, Vosper saw the writing on the wall and decided to diversify. The company moved into training and fleet support, basically offering repairs and servicing to warships. Portsmouth and Southampton are great maritime rivals and whatever the powers that be say, it is clear that Portsmouth has gained the upper hand at Southampton's expense. The sight of those great steel-grey warships, moored imperiously on the banks of the Itchen, will in time become just a distant memory.

BBC News  

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