Commercial hopes for city’s shipyard given a boost with interest from firms

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HOPES that a commercial shipbuilding industry could flourish in Portsmouth have been given a boost.

At least seven firms have made approaches to the city in the last few days following the news that BAE Systems would be closing down its shipbuilding operations in Portsmouth, and moving them to Scotland.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt says she has been talking to a number of commercial firms who have come forward with an interest in setting up a base here.

Some of them are interested in building a number of whole ships in the city.

Ms Mordaunt told The News: ‘We have had yet more contact from commercial interest.

‘What I have done today is sent a note out to our local councillors, the Local Enterprise Partnership, and the Maritime Task Force, asking them for some dates where we can introduce them to these companies and get the ball rolling.

‘I have written to a number of ministers today to request meetings with them.

‘We would not have this interest if people thought this wasn’t a place to build ships.

‘It is about our quality reputation. It is a testament to the quality of work we have produced here in the past.’

Mike Hancock, the MP for Portsmouth South, has also received enquiries from interested firms.

And Ms Mordaunt says more still have approached the government directly.

Meanwhile, unions, council groups, and members of the public have been calling for a reversal of the decision.

The GMB union is holding a protest outside the recording of Question Time in Portsmouth at the Guildhall on Thursday from 6pm.

The Portsmouth Labour Party has organised a petition being signed on doorsteps.

The city’s Conservative group is putting forward a motion at a full council meeting today calling for action.

And the council’s Lib Dem leadership has demanded more mitigation from the government in softening the blow caused by the loss of shipbuilding.

They have been unanimous in their calls for Portsmouth to be given some extra work building the Royal Navy’s newly-ordered Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Ms Mordaunt said it would buy the city some more time while a commercial industry can be established.

Questions have also been raised about where the navy’s anticipated Type 26 frigates will be built if Scotland votes for independence in an upcoming referendum.

‘We’ve got a long way to go yet, but there is interest and whatever happens on the defence side of things, whether we get some OPVs or not, whether we get the Type 26s or not, we have got to diversify,’ added Ms Mordaunt.

‘We have got that reputation as a city that when the chips are down, we deliver and that’s what we must do.’