New occupier still needed for BAE site in dockyard

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The two words on our front page today sum it up – The End.

After centuries of shipbuilding in Portsmouth, the final piece of the HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier built in the city left the harbour last night en route for the Rosyth shipyard in Scotland.

Ever since it was announced last November that BAE intended to leave the city once the contract was completed, we knew this day would come.

But it doesn’t make it any easier to come to terms with.

Suddenly it is all very final. An important maritime tradition is no more. Shipbuilding here has now been consigned to the history books.

For some of those affected by BAE’s withdrawal from Portsmouth, the future is still uncertain.

Out of the 940 workers involved, as many as 200 have yet to find new roles or take redundancy packages.

Of course, they can all take great pride in a job well done.

We’ve already remarked how their professionalism in such difficult circumstances is to be greatly admired. But that doesn’t pay the bills and give them security and peace of mind.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – for all the diversification that Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt enthuses about, what is still needed is a new occupier for BAE’s dockyard site who can utilise the skills of those who played such an important part in building the nation’s new aircraft carriers.

Gary Cook, GMB union regional organiser with responsibility for shipbuilding, says he is ‘very sceptical’ that will happen in the short term. But we have to hope that it is possible.

We know that some serious bids are already on the table, while Minister for Portsmouth Matthew Hancock insists that no stone will be left unturned in the search for a commercial venture that can bring shipbuilding back to the city.

We take him at his word. If there is somebody suitable out there, they need to be identified and sold the benefits of coming to the city and taking advantage of a workforce that has proved it can deliver.