CALLS have been made for the government to build a new polar research vessel in Portsmouth to save shipbuilding jobs.
Chancellor George Osborne announced £200m of funding for a scientific survey ship to put Britain at the forefront of research in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans.
Now city leaders have urged the government to do all it can to see the ship built in Portsmouth as a way to mitigate job losses caused by imminent closure of the BAE Systems shipyard.
In a letter to business secretary Vince Cable, Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘This represents a massive opportunity to right the wrongs that were inflicted on the people of Portsmouth through no fault of their own.
‘Government and commercial decisions dealt a hard blow to the city and this new ship provides the perfect chance to rectify this situation.
‘I understand EU regulations mean the government will have to listen to bids from other countries who may wish to build the vessel.
‘I would argue it is absolutely essential the government does the right thing – build the vessel in the UK and put the Portsmouth dockyard and its workforce back into work and retain those shipbuilding skills before they are lost forever.’
The new vessel will go towards replacing the UK’s two current polar exploration ships – RSS James Clark Ross and RSS Ernest Shackleton – which are nearing the end of their lives.
The ship will have on board laboratories, and will carry cutting-edge technology including robotic submarines to gather data on marine biology and ocean conditions.
The ship will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey and will be able to carry out longer voyages than the current vessels.
Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, added to the calls for the ship to be built in Portsmouth.
She is trying to secure a meeting with George Osborne to discuss the idea.
‘This is a great opportunity,’ she said.
‘I have requested a meeting with the chancellor about it, along with a number of other things to do with the dockyard.
‘The timetable of this suits us well because they will be putting this out to tender now and the ship would be in its trials in 2018 – we are looking at moving very quickly on this.
‘It is clearly the sort of ship that our local workforce is all about.’
Union backs calls
THE Prospect union is backing the calls for the new polar research ship to be built in Portsmouth.
John Ferrett, a negotiation officer for Prospect, said: ‘The union believes this is an excellent opportunity to secure shipbuilding capability within the city and would urge BAE Systems to bid for this work.
‘Prospect firmly believes the government and business should work together to secure this order for UK shipbuilding and provide a lifeline for those facing the loss of their livelihood in Portsmouth.
‘Furthermore, the ongoing need to build new ships for
the navy and the maritime sector provides a strong argument for maintaining a shipbuilding capability in Portsmouth Naval Base.’