Last year, news of plans to axe about 40% of the workforce by the end of March 2019, was given to union representatives and workers on October 11th, though Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead shipyard (above) and marine engineering services had won two contracts that month, worth £619 million. The Unite union had demanded to see Cammell Laird’s business case for cuts which would lead to the loss of vital skills and ‘backdoor casualisation’ of the workforce, undermining the shipyard’s ability to fulfil new contracts.
At the UK Chamber of Shipping during London International Shipping Week 2019 plans were launched yesterday for the building of a new £150m disaster relief ship to be built at Cammell Laird (design below), supporting valuable skilled jobs, and equipped with innovative British technology. It will be permanently based in the Caribbean to support disaster relief efforts and provide specialist training berths for the next generation of UK and Commonwealth officer cadets, rating apprentices and trainees in trades associated with aid and reconstruction.
Britannia Maritime Aid, maritime professionals and training experts have joined forces for the project with backing from former First Sea Lords, the Lord West of Spithead and Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh. Other supporters include members of the Houses of Lords and Commons, Leadship, the RMT union and Nautilus International, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Merchant Navy Training Board, the maritime charity London Trinity House and the Government of Barbados, whose Prime Minister will speak at the launch.
As well as supporting humanitarian aid missions in the Caribbean, there will be a focus on the environment and ocean advocacy – including beach and coast clean ups, plastic collection and research.
BMA chairman Captain Kevin P Slade said: “Having a dedicated vessel with a training and aid function is a first of its kind for the UK and would ease the pressure on the limited resources that the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary can provide.
Admiral Lord West added: “Britannia Maritime Aid’s plans will significantly bolster the UK’s maritime capabilities in the long term while saving lives, supporting British shipbuilding and complementing the role of our hard-pressed armed forces. “I fully support the proposals and urged others to give their support to ensure we make these very welcome plans a reality as soon as possible.”
BMA’s vessel – to be operated by a British company – will include a training centre, landing craft, helicopters, drones, rough terrain vehicles, onboard medical facilities, briefing rooms, conference facilities, workshops and full mission bridge and engine simulators for trainees. The ship will be able to carry up to 6,000 tonnes of vehicles and aid supplies – more than 10 times the capacity of current vessels – including field hospitals, field kitchens, tents, fresh water and fuel for devastated areas.
BMA aims to deliver its ship by 2024, and will charter or buy suitable ships to run operations until its purpose-built ship is ready.
London International Shipping Week’s website reports that Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani yesterday marked the start of London International Shipping Week by announcing a new ship for the General Lighthouse Authority, which is responsible for providing more than 600 aids to navigation around UK waters, including ships, lighthouses and buoys, and helping thousands of mariners every year. The vessel will provide critical navigation aids to ships in some of the most dangerous waters in the world, guiding them into safe channels away from wrecks, thanks to an upgrade in the latest technology.
Boosting innovation, skills, jobs, and productivity across the UK
Earlier this year the Department for Transport launched its Maritime 2050 Strategy to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping and support UK businesses. This follows the strategy outlined in the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy: an independent report (Sir John Parker, 2017) which advocates the transformation of the procurement of naval ships, grow the Royal Navy fleet by the 2030s, boosting innovation, skills, jobs, and productivity across the UK.