THE decision to close shipbuilding in Portsmouth is ‘tearing the heart out’ of the naval base and the city, a top defence economist has said.
Dr Michael Asteris, a visiting fellow at the University of Portsmouth, also warned that the impact of shutting down shipbuilding operations at Portsmouth Naval Base would be far reaching.
Not only will 940 jobs be lost at the naval base, but BAE Systems’ suppliers and contractors will also be affected, and there is a real risk Portsmouth will once again be seen as an uninviting place to do business.
He said: ‘The impact is significant.
‘The view could be that Portsmouth has severe problems with employment and it is not a good place to do business.’
Dr Asteris was one of three experts who published a 66-page report last August looking at the impact of shipbuilding leaving Portsmouth.
They found that, unsurprisingly, 30 per cent of people working at the dockyard come from the city itself, and the next highest proportion of employees are from Gosport.
Unemployment in the town has been high since the Ministry of Defence all but closed down on the peninsular, but had been improving in recent times.
Those figures are followed by Fareham, and then Southampton, which is where the old Vosper Thorneycroft shipyards were based before they moved to Portsmouth in 2003.
Dr Asteris said: ‘There is a supply chain that is particularly strong in the Portsmouth area but it goes all over the country.
‘There’s an effect that it will impact on the local community in terms of jobs and local spending, but that impact goes as far as Southampton in a ripple effect, possibly because Vosper Thornycroft, as it was, moved to Portsmouth from Woolston and a lot of workers still live there.
‘The shipyard only moved to Portsmouth in 2003, so that makes it one of the most modern shipbuilding facilities in the world that we’re closing.
‘Some 30 per cent of the workforce was from Portsmouth, the next highest was Gosport, because it’s just across on the ferry, and then Fareham.
‘For Southampton, it was still nine per cent of the total.
‘It’s an important piece of the economic jigsaw that’s going to be lost.
‘The blame is on us for not financing the defence budget, and the blame is on the Ministry of Defence for not financing the shipbuilding
‘The dockyard was the heart of the city, and the heart of it is being torn out by removing shipbuilding.’
Dr Asteris said there will also be a knock-on effect as employees moved between BAE Systems’ shipbuilding and ship maintenance services depending on demand.
He said: ‘People used to be able to move between the two, so when one was quieter they could move to the other. Now they won’t be able to do that and the flexibility has been lost.’
A spokeswoman from BAE Systems reiterated that the firm was not withdrawing from the base.
She said: ‘BAE Systems will continue to have operations and a significant number of employees in the Portsmouth area.
‘The Maritime Services arm of the company will continue to provide all support and maintenance to the Royal Navy’s fleet of Portsmouth base ported ships as well as the manufacture of small boats and the management of all logistics, estate management and waterfront activities on behalf of the MoD at Portsmouth Naval Base.’