A potential shot in the arm for British shipbuilding?
It was good to hear the announcement recently from George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, that a new £200million British polar research ship is to be built. The Chancellor said that this major investment will put Britain at the leading edge of research in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans.
The new vessel will replace Britain’s two current polar exploration ships, the Royal Research Ship (RRS) James Clark Ross and the RRS Ernest Shackleton. The new ship will be commissioned by The Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), which will be working with the British science community to draw up the technical requirements for the ship in order to meet the demanding challenges faced in exploring these polar regions.
Is it too much to expect that a vessel of such strategic significance to Britain will actually be built in a British shipyard? That would really be good news and a real shot in the arm for British shipbuilding, but under EU (European Union) rules, it is unlikely that bids to build the vessel will be limited to shipbuilders in the UK. Already, there is a strong lobby for the vessel to be built in Portsmouth in view of the likely demise of the BAE Systems shipyard there. We will watch developments with interest but hope that the Chancellor’s announcement will prove to be a significant boost for British shipbuilding.
In the October 2013 edition of Sea Breezes I highlighted the challenges facing the industry in meeting new environmental regulations set to bite in 2015. At the end of April, DFDS announced that its historic Harwich - Esbjerg route (inaugurated in 1875) is to close on 29th September 2014. The route has been struggling for some time, but the prohibitive cost of meeting new sulphur emission regulations is cited as the final nail in the coffin for this famous old route. DFDS states that the new environmental law and the requirement to use low-sulphur oil would result in an additional cost of £2million annually. In the context of already tough trading conditions this has led to the decision to close the route. Unfortunately this will mean that there is no passenger ferry route operating between Britain and Scandinavia.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR