A new chapter in shipbuilding on the Clyde?
On one or two previous occasions in Message from the Bridge, I have bemoaned the decline in Britain’s shipbuilding industry and gone down ‘memory lane’ to reflect on its once great history – particularly the shipyards of the River Clyde around Glasgow which once ‘led the field’.
It was therefore, with some degree of excitement that I was recently reading about Jim McColl’s future plans for developing the Fergusons shipbuilding business on the Clyde. McColl is one of Scotland’s most prominent businessmen and his Clyde Blowers Capital investment company saved the Fergusons shipyard from demise in 2014.
Recent comments from McColl have suggested that as well as long overdue investment in the Port Glasgow yard, he is looking to expand facilities and has been looking at the Inchgreen dock at Greenock (just along the Clyde). Peel Ports (the owners of Greenock and other ports on the Clyde) are keen to find a user for the dock, with the focus being on ship repair and maintenance rather than on the residential development route that has been favoured by many privatised port companies in recent years.
Jim McColl believes that Fergusons could expand beyond its current focus on small passenger ferries (it is currently building the third of a series of new ‘hybrid’ powered vessels for use by the ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne) and sees opportunities in the defence and commercial sectors. New facilities would be required to tackle larger orders, but McColl has signalled the appetite to invest and continue to rebuild Scotland’s engineering heritage.
Construction of the second of the UK Navy’s new aircraft carriers continues apace at Rosyth (on the east coast of Scotland) so these are exciting times for the Scottish shipbuilding sector.
As someone who sailed in a number of Clyde-built vessels (my own favourite was the TSS Caledonian Princess, one of the last vessels off the production line at Denny’s in Dumbarton, a famous shipyard which closed in 1963) and who also had a brief spell as a member of the Executive team at the ClydePort Authority (now owned by Peel Ports), I will be keeping a keen interest in seeing how Jim McColl’s plans for Fergusons develop. Could this be a new and exciting chapter in the history of Scottish shipbuilding?
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR