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Scottish builders bounce back

Arecent influx of orders at both Rosyth Royal Dockyard and Ferguson Shipbuilders at Port Glasgow have given renewed vigor to Scottish vessel builders. It has also countered the news that yet another Scottish builder — Jones Buckie, one of Scotland's premier fishing boat builders — is in the hands of the receiver. (Although the receiver is reportedly "cautiously optimistic" about being able to sell the yard). At one time the outlook for the Rosyth Royal Dockyard on the East Coast appeared precarious, but the activities of sister company, Babcock Rosyth Defense Ltd. (BRDL), look set to extend the security of the 3,500 employees at the yard. The latest orders — all received from the U.K. Ministry of Defence — comprise more than $82 million worth of major refit work.

The largest single contract is for work on HMS Newcastle, a Type 42 destroyer, including additions and alterations to the ship's mechanical and weapons systems. This will be the fourth Royal Navy Type 42 vessel to undergo substantial modifications at Rosyth, all completed ahead of schedule; HMS Edinburgh is approaching trials stage and HMS York has recently been delivered.

At the same time the company will be working on its first Type 22 frigate, HMS Coventry. The 12-month package, won against stiff competition at around $16 million, includes a substantial accommodation conversion, main machinery overhaul, and improvements to the sonar and communications systems.

Three smaller vessels, HMSDumbarton, HMS Cattistock and HMS Shetland, are coming to Rosyth for refit in a combined contract worth $25 million. This is part of an ongoing program of work on the Hunt and Sandown class minehunters and the Castle and Island class patrol vessels that is expected to continue beyond the year 2000. The latest in the series to be rededicated is HMS Orkney, an Island class vessel which has returned to fishery patrol duties following a 29-week refit.

The company also has glass reinforced plastic expertise, exemplified by the recent strip down and rebuild of HMS Ledbury, a Hunt class mine countermeasures vessel. At 615 tons, the vessel is one of the largest plastic ships in the world. Following its eight-month refit, it has rejoined its 12 sisters in what has become known as the "Tupperware Fleet." All refits to these vessels take place inside Rosyth's five-berth Synchrolift building.

BRDL's Managing DirectorDavid Batty said, "We have responded well to the value for money and efficiency demands which the Ministry of Defence require. I am pleased that our workforce has demonstrated that it has the flexibility, skills and willingness to consistently deliver high standards on some of the most demanding refit programs." Meanwhile, at Port Glasgow, Ferguson Shipbuilders is maintaining the long Clydeside shipbuilding tradition by securing three orders totaling $80 million. Five years ago Ferguson employed 40 people. Last year it turned a significant profit on a turnover of $30 million with 320 employees, and the current order intake looks set to increase this to around 400. Chief Executive Bill Scott told MR /EN that more orders were in the pipeline and, "We expect to be signing contracts within the next eight weeks." The most recent order is for a platform supply vessel, built to a design by the Norwegian naval architectural firm of Vik & Sandvik. Placed by Stirling Shipping, a subsidiary of Harrisons (Clyde) Limited, the contract was won for $19.5 million in competition with 17 other yards worldwide. The 271-ft. (82.5- m) x 62-ft. (19-m), 4,500-dwt vessel will have a propulsion system comprising two 3,300-hp diesel main engines driving CP propellers. An azimuthing thruster at the bow will augment the complement of three transverse tunnel thrusters. Currently under construction at the yard are two 58-ton bollard pull Voith tractor tugs for Shetland Towage Ltd. Fully equipped with a 2,400- cu.-m./hour firefighting system and oil dispersant tanks, the vessels will be powered by a pair of Caterpillar 3606 diesels developing 2,030 kW at 1,000 rpm. Valued at $7.5 million each, the tugs will operate at the Sullom Voe terminal for BP Exploration. Another vessel currently under construction at the yard is a 271-ft. (82.4-m) f e r r y for the Southampton-based Red Funnel Group. The third in a series of similar craft for the same customer, it will have capacity for 900 passengers, 140 cars and 16 coaches.

The recovery of Ferguson has been nothing short of dramatic since the yard was privatized under the leadership of Bill Scott in 1990. Major impetus was created when the yard obtained the contract to build the Isle of Lewis, a 331-ft. (101-m) car ferry, from Caledonian MacBrayne. This order immediately gave the newly reorganized Ferguson a high profile in the ferry market. Expansion has also taken place with the formation of new companies within the Ferguson Marine Group, which include Newark Joiners Ltd. and Alder Marine Consultants Ltd. Further proof of newfound stability is the decision to purchase and completely rebuild a 426.5-ft. (130-m) fitting out quay which will effectively double capacity

 
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