Action stations as Portsmouth reels from the devastating blow of shipyard closure

MORE TIME An aerial view of the dockyards, including BAE's sheds
MORE TIME An aerial view of the dockyards, including BAE's sheds
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MORE time and money is needed if Portsmouth is to successfully bounce back from the blow of losing military shipbuilding.

That is the cry from political and industrial leaders today as people in the city try to carve out a future for its maritime industry.

As the dust continues to settle following the shock announcement that BAE Systems would close its shipbuilding operations here, dockyard

workers, unions, and politicians are urgently trying to put in place a plan to protect as many jobs as possible.

Some have issued a rallying cry for the city to set its sights on commercial shipbuilding as a way to keep the maritime industry thriving in Portsmouth.

Others say the closure should not be treated as a done deal.

But across the area, action is being taken to carve out a path for the future of Portsmouth’s maritime industry and those who work within it.

Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, said: ‘I want to keep shipbuilding here but we’ve got to build an industry that wants to build ships.

‘If we’ve got to bring in the commercial sector to help us retain that skills base then that’s what we need to do and I’m determined that’s what we’re going to do in Portsmouth.

‘We could become the maritime heart of the UK and we’ve got to carve out that vision now for the city.’

Ms Mordaunt says she met with BAE Systems yesterday and sought assurances from the company that it will help other firms move in when the time comes for it to leave.

She is also calling for at least one of the Royal Navy’s three new Offshore Patrol Vessels to be built in Portsmouth, to keep workers busy until a new industry can take hold and make use of their skills.

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock says he has sought assurances from the Ministry of Defence that it will help put the shipbuilding sheds at Portsmouth Naval Base to good future use.

He said: ‘If we can get someone else in those sheds then that would be great, but it’s what the Ministry of Defence wants to do with them that we have to get answers on.

‘This can only be answered by the Secretary of State and I will ask these questions. We need more time.’

Meanwhile, unions are meeting with their members today to gauge the mood and decide on a course of action. The GMB union is considering whether a campaign to reverse the decision should be launched.

And the University of Portsmouth has stepped forward to offer its help to any workers who may need to learn a new trade.

Professor Graham Galbraith, the vice-chancellor of the university, said: ‘As a major partner in the city and the region, the university is committed to supporting economic growth, and is actively seeking ways to support the re-skilling of affected workers and encourage new business start-ups.

‘The university is ready and keen to work with Portsmouth City Council, the Solent Local Economic Partnership, and other partners, to minimise the impact on the Solent economy and to play our part.’

As reported in The News, the announcement of the closure of Portsmouth’s shipbuilding yard prompted a major political row.

BAE Systems says helping workers find new opportunities will be part of its next steps.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We are due to meet unions next week when we will be going into the detail of how the business has come to its recommendation and how we mitigate it.’