City loses out on £200m bid to build vessel

The new polar research vessel will not be built in Portsmouth
The new polar research vessel will not be built in Portsmouth
Sue Ball

Law expert speaks after controversial new ruling

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A FORMER city MP says it’s a huge blow that Portsmouth missed out on the chance to secure a lucrative contract to build a polar research vessel.

The government was last year urged to award the city a £200m contract to build a scientific survey ship putting Britain at the forefront of research in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans.

I just cannot understand why Cammell Laird should get it, when we have two Tory MPs who should have been taken up the mantle for Portsmouth and done the necessary work to bring it to the city.

Former Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock

Politicians said it would have helped mitigate hundreds of job losses caused by the closure of the BAE Systems shipyard in 2013.

But Cammell Laird in Birkenhead has now been selected as the preferred bidder to build the state-of-the-art vessel.

The decision follows a 12-month competitive tender process that involved bids from companies in the UK, Europe and the Far East.

Former Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock, who urged ex-business secretary Vince Cable to bring the ship to the city in light of dockyard job losses, said it was disappointing enough wasn’t done.

Mr Hancock said: ‘I just cannot understand why Cammell Laird should get it, when we have two Tory MPs who should have been taken up the mantle for Portsmouth and done the necessary work to bring it to the city.

‘I am rather surprised and disappointed they haven’t been able to do more.

‘It was important because it was another opportunity for the city and it’s disappointing that it hasn’t materialised.’

But Portsmouth North MP and armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt said the government had considered the city in its plans – but BAE Systems and Magma Structures’ plans for its dockyard were regarded a better solution.

She said: ‘We have gone with mine countenance repairs and Magma for a whole raft of reasons. We think that has the most sustainable synergy of businesses for the dockyard.

‘If it were a goer, we would have been doing it in Portsmouth.

‘But that’s not the case, and we have got the best solution.’

Work is expected to begin in the autumn of 2016 and the ship will be in operation by 2019.