Shipbuilding group pulls out of race to take over Portsmouth’s shipyard

(l-r) ''Vince Burdett, Sarah Stanton and Paul Gonella, who were hoping to take over the shipyard
(l-r) ''Vince Burdett, Sarah Stanton and Paul Gonella, who were hoping to take over the shipyard
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Shipping firm set to move its business out of Portsmouth

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A CONSORTIUM of business owners has scrapped plans to take over Portsmouth’s shipyard.

Portsmouth Shipbuilding Group was set up in the wake of the decision made by BAE Systems last year to relocate its shipbuilding division to the Clyde, in Scotland, a move that put hundreds of jobs at risk.

The team, fronted by city marine consultants Stanton Burdett, wanted the government to commission a new Ocean Patrol Vessel which it wanted to build along with other vessels at the yard to ensure its long-term future was secure.

But the project needed £100m of government money to get off the ground, and as no commitment was made by ministers that the cash or another OPV would come to light, it never happened.

Now the workforce, which also included Aurora Ventures, Ecospeed Marine Ltd, Offshore Expeditions, and Burgess Marine, has decided the dream is over and has disbanded.

In a statement issued through Facebook, the group said: ‘After 10 months of lobbying the government and local council, we have ended our bid to continue shipbuilding in Portsmouth.’

It said that because the shipyard facility had been ‘stripped’ the opportunity had ‘no longer become viable.’

‘We wish all those involved in shipbuilding and supporters the very best for the future and hope that David Cameron remembers the pledge he made on January 20 to keep shipbuilding in the city.’

The group’s original expectation was to create a turnover of £1bn within 10 years and employ 1,000 people.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said while it was disappointing news, it wasn’t surprising given the amount of money that was needed to be spent on the scheme.

‘It’s disappointing whenever private investors or a private enterprise hope to develop something that will benefit Portsmouth and further beyond that, the country and it doesn’t succeed,’ she said.

‘I am not surprised though because the BAE shipbuilding site costs millions in overheads. We are looking at £1.5m to £2m worth of overheads to run the site before starting anything.

‘The organisation that will take over the site is going to be a large set-up with substantial funds behind them.’

Stanton Burdett had also considered becoming a marketing agent for the shipyard to manage expressions of interest in the facility before reporting its findings back to the government.

But the firm never applied in the end and the role was given to property consultant Lambert Smith Hampton instead. LSH has received eight bids of interest for the yard and the Ministry of Defence is considering their proposals.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said she hoped Stanton Burdett could still play a part in the yard’s future.

‘I hope as a local firm it will get work out of the next chapter of the yard,’ she said.

‘It has been a terrific force for good in highlighting the options available to keep shipbuilding alive in Portsmouth.’