Canadian shipbuilder steps in to recruit Portsmouth BAE workers

HMS Queen Elizabeth forward island at BAE in Portsmouth
HMS Queen Elizabeth forward island at BAE in Portsmouth
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CANADIAN shipbuilders have set their sights on skilled workers in Portsmouth to help them build 17 ships for that country’s navy.

Seaspan is a Canadian shipbuilding firm which has recently been given a contract to build 17 ships for the Canadian Navy.

Now they need skilled workers to move to Vancouver and help build the vessels – and they have got their eye on Portsmouth workers.

It comes after last month’s announcement by BAE Systems that they would be closing shipbuilding operations in the city, with the loss of around 940 jobs.

John Ferrett, a negotiator at the Prospect union, said: ‘I think this is a testament 
to the skills that workers have in Portsmouth, but an indictment of the inability of both business and government to retain these skills and capabilities.

‘As we have said repeatedly as unions, once this capability has been lost it will be incredibly difficult to replace it, not least given the enormous start-up costs.

‘This could be good news for workers who may be able to start a new life in Canada; it’s good news for the Canadian shipbuilding industry who have the opportunity to hand-pick fully trained and experienced shipbuilders; but it’s bad news for Portsmouth and the UK economy that we can no longer sustain highly-skilled manufacturing jobs.

‘Clearly, Canada will involve starting a new life and for those with families, mortgages and responsibilities it would not be an easy decision.’

Seaspan says it is creating teams in engineering, operations, and program management, to help with the construction of 17 non-combat vessels for the Canadian government.

These include five medium endurance multi-tasked vessels, and five offshore patrol vessels.

The firm hopes the work will kick-start a shipbuilding and ship repair centre of excellence on the west coast of Canada.

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘It sounds like a great opportunity for people who want to make an exciting move and do something new, but obviously it might be difficult for people with responsibilities here.

‘It would be even better if they could be persuaded to build some of the ships in Portsmouth... but I would encourage workers who are interested to go for 

‘It is obviously a testament to the reputation of the workers.’

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PORTSMOUTH North MP Penny Mordaunt has spoken in support of the group that wants to take over the BAE shipbuilding yard.

Portsmouth Shipbuilding is hoping to take on the contract for one Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) while it builds up its order book.

The group met with Ms Mordaunt on Monday, in Westminster, and she put forward the plan to Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond. Last night she met with Rear-Admiral Rob Stephens to discuss the plans.

She said: ‘We’ve had an enormous number of enquiries from people who want to come here, who want to use our excellent workforce. So I’m very confident and I’m really optimistic that we will be able to retain shipbuilding in Portsmouth.’