COMMENT: Contracts are a reminder of city’s key maritime role

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WHEN BAE Systems announced it was pulling the plug on shipbuilding in the city some six years ago now, it was a sad day for Portsmouth.

It brought centuries of tradition to an end, and less romantically but more importantly for the here and now, it also meant the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs.

That devastating blow saw the end of hundreds of skilled roles in the dockyards. It also had a knock-on effect on other businesses in the region that fed into the shipbuilding supply chain.

And as BAE’s contract to build the new Type 26 frigates went north of the border, it was a move widely viewed to be political – it all happened ahead of the Scottish vote on independence, and Portsmouth’s loss came at the Glasgow shipyards’ gain.

Against that recent historical context, it is hugely reassuring to hear that the Ministry of Defence has awarded four contracts worth a total of £112m to BAE Systems over the next six-and-a-half years.

The contracts will cover the maintenance and support of more than 650 boats here in Portsmouth, including those operated from Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, and by the Ministry of Defence Police, Army and Royal Marines.

Any significant influx of cash – and the creation of new jobs – into the region is to be welcomed.

And when it is for an industry that has been somewhat beleaguered to say the least, it is even sweeter.

Portsmouth North MP and former defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt said she is ‘pleased’ at the announcement, ‘which will give further stability and confidence to BAE Systems and their suppliers.’

With the city continuing to serve as the home of the navy, it also serves as a timely reminder to reinforce the crucial role Portsmouth has to play in the nation’s defence.