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Cammell Laird, the shipyard synonymous with Merseyside’s maritime heyday, was given a new lease of life on Monday in a sign of the region’s growing appeal to investors.
In effect closed after the last recession in 1993, the Birkenhead yard has hosted a series of ship repair companies but its current occupants feel now is the time to recreate the famous brand and bid to return to shipbuilding.
Northwestern Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders, based on the site for the past seven years, renamed itself Cammell Laird on Monday after buying the name from the receivers and winning a host of orders.
John Syvret, managing director and former CL apprentice, said the name would help bring it business worldwide. “Cammell Laird is an internationally recognised brand which carries tremendous goodwill when bidding for contracts.
“We passionately believed that to bring back the Cammell Laird brand name and trademark we had to have enough financial strength, substance and credibility to live up to its international reputation.”
The company signed a contract with the Ministry of Defence this year, for the maintenance of Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, potentially worth up to £1bn over 30 years. It also qualified for subcontracting work on two £4bn ($6bn, €5bn) aircraft carriers.
It should turn over more than £90m next year, up from £9m in 2002. It employs 1,000 people directly or indirectly, compared with more than 11,000 in the late 1960s.
The site still has one of the largest construction halls in the world – at 145 metres long, 107 metres wide and 50 metres high – built as recently as 1978. Yet a few years ago plans were drawn up to turn it into a leisure complex including a new home for Tranmere Rovers football club.
Peel Holdings, the private property company that controls Mersey docks and swathes of adjoining land, has been instrumental in reviving the yard, taking a 47.5 per cent stake in NSL and acquiring the freehold of the site.
Mr Syvret said the yard, which has a 50-50 split of commercial and military work, would look to expand its marine services business, especially in ship conversion.
“This is a truly historic day for the shipyard,” he said. “It has taken seven years of grit and determination, commitment and long hours from the whole team to rebuild a thriving business here again.”
This month the yard announced an alliance with Fincantieri of Italy, Europe’s biggest shipbuilder, in support of its bid to provide the next generation of MARS fleet tankers for the MoD.
The Cammell Laird yard has produced hundreds of ships since its foundation in the 1820s, including the Ark Royal, the Navy’s first carrier, in 1937. Owners Vickers built three submarines there but closed it in July 1993.
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