Coronavirus lockdown could provide 'new positives' for businesses in Portsmouth, BAE Systems boss says

LOCKDOWN fallout is not all bad news for business according to a boss at one of the world’s biggest defence firms, who has insisted there are ‘positives’ for companies going forward.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 6:28 pm
Updated Monday, 8th June 2020, 4:13 pm
Jon Pearson, director of warship support at BAE Systems

Jon Pearson, director of warship support at BAE Systems, said there were ‘masses of opportunities’ for companies to reinvent how they work and save money.

Mr Pearson’s comments come after BAE’s main hub at Portsmouth Naval Base had to be overhauled to prevent the spread of coronavirus – and to maintain the navy’s fleet.

In a radical change to how the company worked, more than half of BAE’s 2,600-strong employees at the city’s dockyard were sent to work from home.

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BAE Systems staff working while social distancing. Photo: BAE Systems/Julian Hickman

Safety measures for those still working at the base were bumped up, with social distancing and the use of PPE now commonplace.

The new way of working brought with it a number of benefits, which it’s hoped can be carried forward as lockdown begins to ease, Mr Pearson said.

Speaking to The News, he added: ‘There are masses of opportunities out of the way that we have responded to Covid-19 that we should be looking to take forward in the way that we do our business in the future.

‘If you asked us 12 weeks ago whether we could be effective with 50 per cent of our people working from home, we probably would have said there is no way that we can do that.

BAE Systems staff working while social distancing. Photo: BAE Systems/Julian Hickman

‘All the way from macro level to delivering eight ships out of the dockyard through this period, down to the minutiae of how much less paper we’ve used in printers because everybody is working remotely - and how that will impact the bottom line and the environment.

‘I think we’re doing a lot of work at the moment, sitting back and saying: “What positives can we take out of this Covid-19 experience that will make us more effective in the future?”.’

During the 10 weeks of lockdown, staff at BAE Systems’ warship support team have been working on getting a number of naval ships to sea.

Major work has been carried out on £1bn destroyer HMS Dauntless, frigates HMS Kent, Lancaster and Westminster.

Dockyard staff working on board HMS Duncan during the Covid-19 lockdown at Portsmouth Naval Base. Photo: BAE Systems/Julian Hickman

Meanwhile, engineers have been busy on both the £3.1bn aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

And workers started a number of major maintenance and upkeep jobs, including tasks on destroyers HMS Defender and Dragon.

‘I can’t tell you how proud I am of the people that work for me in this dockyard,’ added Mr Pearson. ‘They have a massive reputation that when the country needs them and the Royal Navy needs them, they step up to the plate.

‘And Covid-19 has been no different from anything else that we have done in a long and fantastic history in this dockyard.

‘To a man and a woman, they have stepped up, come to work and done what we have asked them to do. I’m enormously proud and enormously grateful for everything they have done.’