A DECISION on whether BAE Systems will be shutting down its shipbuilding in Portsmouth has not been made, the firm’s managing director has stressed.
Mick Ord made the comments after BAE Systems handed over Amazonas, the first of three ocean patrol vessels to the Brazilian Navy yesterday.
It follows reports that the government could delay the building of the second of two aircraft carriers and close BAE System’s shipbuilding operations at Portsmouth Naval Base in order to save cash.
The problem hinges on a two-year gap between the carriers being completed in 2018 and construction beginning on the Type 26 frigates in 2020. As reported in The News yesterday, an independent report warned that 4,000 jobs in the city may be lost.
Mr Ord said: ‘From a BAE point of view we have two very large bases here in Portsmouth – the maritime business that supports the fleet, and a very large shipbuilding capability here.
‘We’re absolutely at full capacity at the moment and we’ll be busy well into 2014.
‘We have lots of different options to consider, but no decisions have yet been made.
‘It’s important for the wider Portsmouth area to realise the international business we’ve negotiated here.
‘Behind these walls there’s a lot going on, not just keeping our own navy afloat.’
Brian Johnson, UK business development director for BAE Systems, rubbished the closure reports, saying they were based mainly on opinion and speculation.
He stressed the firm’s own review of its operations across the UK was still being carried out.
Mr Johnson said: ‘That report was completely divorced from our review – it was just a standard part of the carrier project.’
Both Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, who both attended yesterday’s ceremony, said deals like the one with Brazil were the way forward.
Ms Mordaunt added: ‘Saying we should pay more money and delay the aircraft carriers being built is nonsense.
‘We’ve got to stop the scaremongering and stick to the facts.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘What I have to do now is to persuade ministers to keep the shipbuilding here in Portsmouth until the Type 26s are due to be built.
‘The one thing we can’t do is get rid of people with expertise and then find we have to find them again two years later. It would be sensible for the government to find work in shipbuilding in Portsmouth for the two years between the aircraft carriers being complete and the building of the Type 26s.
‘We should also be looking to get the aircraft carriers down here as soon as possible, because if the fit-out of them can be done here instead of elsewhere then that’s all the more secure jobs for Portsmouth.’