Conference to hear of Portsmouth shipyard plans

A ship builder constructs a section of the first of two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers at BAE Systems in Portsmouth.
A ship builder constructs a section of the first of two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers at BAE Systems in Portsmouth.
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

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COMPANIES that build parts for ships in Portsmouth will come together to find out more about how they can grow.

A conference is being held at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on Wednesday so supply-chain firms can find out how to access funds and be briefed on the future of shipbuilding.

They will learn how the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership has set up a new fund that can be tapped into and how the government is keen to see more defence work being given to small and medium-sized firms.

Defence equipment minister Philip Dunne will make a speech about the future of the city’s shipyard.

Companies will be told about the work of Fareham firm Lambert Smith Hampton, which is busy marketing the yard for businesses interested in coming to build commercial ships in the wake of naval shipbuilding jobs being axed in the city.

City MP Penny Mordaunt, who set up the conference, said: ‘We want supply-chain companies to be successful.

‘They represent a large chunk of the local economy and they work in the interests of the UK as well as Portsmouth.

‘A lot of the skilled workforce is within that supply chain, so supporting them and ensuring that they are growing is a really important thing.’

Ms Mordaunt said she would like to see a ‘cluster’ of companies working together at the yard to bring in work to Portsmouth from overseas.

A website has been designed on behalf of LSH that promotes Portsmouth, its industries and provides information on the size of the yard and activities that operate there.

It gives businesses the chance to register their interest in locating there.

The website describes the dockyard as a ‘modern, heavyweight and flexible production facility equipped with substantial overhead craneage, gantries and power supply that is – well suited to shipbuilding, defence/marine related or general engineering uses.’

And the online advertising has paid off as it has resulted in companies getting in touch and being taken on tours of the yard.

LSH is doing the work on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, which manages the Ministry of Defence’s estates.

Robin Dickens, a director at LSH, said: ‘The shipyard is a world-class manufacturing facility and it provides an unrivalled opportunity for companies in the marine, defence or general engineering industries that are seeking large scale leasehold premises.’

A DIO spokeswoman said: ‘DIO is working closely with our marketing agent Lambert Smith Hampton to explore opportunities to market this site.’

Lib Dem leader anxious about yard’s future

CITY Lib-Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson fears the future of Portsmouth’s shipyard is not secure.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the Defence Infrastructure Organisation ‘wasn’t always brilliant’ at making things happen.

And while he hopes companies with intentions of building commercial ships in the city will deliver, he fears there may not be enough interest.

‘My view is, we have had very few interested parties with good, serious plans that don’t need a lot of government money,’ he said.

‘The DIO is not always brilliant at being able to make things happen, but I hope it will be able to bring companies into Portsmouth.

‘I hope we will be able to get companies working in the dockyard from the autumn.

‘Everyone is frustrated with the situation. It goes back to the original decision of closing down shipbuilding in the city, which was wrong.

‘I hope the DIO finds something.

‘My fear is that it won’t.’

As reported, the marketing agent role being carried out by Lambert Smith Hampton is temporary, and once that’s finished the company will report back to the DIO about the level of interest in the yard.

‘A local management company could then be created and contracted to a bigger organisation that would become the leaseholder of the yard, pay an annual lease fee to the MoD, and oversee commercial shipbuilding in Portsmouth.’