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Appledore Shipyard to reopen under new owner

By PA News

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Unions have welcomed a deal to reopen a historic shipyard in Devon and urged the Government to give it work building ships.

Appledore Shipyard in Devon was bought by InfraStrata, the firm which also owns Belfast’s Harland & Wolff (H&W), in a £7 million deal.

The firm will operate it as Harland & Wolff (Appledore), dealing with smaller vessels than the giant Belfast site where the Titanic was built.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks in the dry dock with caretaker Clifford Edwards during his visit to Appledore Shipyard (Ben Birchall/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks in the dry dock with caretaker Clifford Edwards during his visit to Appledore Shipyard (Ben Birchall/PA)

Appledore built part of the Royal Navy’s latest aircraft carriers and has a history dating back to the 1850s.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the site on Tuesday and said it has a “massive history but it’s also got a great future”.

“What we want to do is to ensure that there’s a good enough stream of contracts coming through to drive jobs and growth here in Devon,” he said.

InfraStrata said that while the yard has been dormant in recent months and the acquisition only comes with one employee – the current site manager – the workforce can be “very quickly ramped up” if contracts for work are secured.

Discussions are already under way with the Government and private vessel owners, InfraStrata said.

The site was previously operated by Babcock but closed in March 2019.

Its new owners hope the Ministry of Defence, Home Office and Department for Transport will choose a British yard for work on planned vessels.

The yard also hopes to secure work on wind farm projects.

InfraStrata’s chief executive John Wood said: “The acquisition at this point in time is opportunistic for the company and one that should not be missed.

“It not only gives us a strategic foothold in mainland UK but also makes the overall business highly competitive in the smaller and higher ends of the shipyard market, respectively.”

Ian Waddell, general secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said: “The prospect of Appledore being reopened is great news for British shipbuilding and we welcome its purchase by InfraStrata.

“Appledore played a vital role making the complex bows for the aircraft carrier and it could play a similar role building the future solid support ship which the Government must build in Britain in order to invest in our regional economies and get the economy back up and running.”

GMB union organiser Matt Roberts said: “We are absolutely delighted with the confirmation that the yard will reopen.

“We have always firmly believed that the yard can be viable and thrive in the right hands.”

The Unite union’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “It is now incumbent on the UK Government to thoroughly review its procurement policies to ensure that British ships are built at UK yards.”

He said such policies must include the fleet solid support ships, which are due to go out to tender shortly.

“If Boris Johnson’s mantra of build, build, build has any real substance then the UK’s shipbuilding industry must be one of the early beneficiaries.”

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