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Two sides to one story..... Falmouth's dredging battle and docks job losses
6:00am Friday 13th September 2013 in News
The Packet's In Port expert David Barnicoat looks at the loss of jobs at A&P and the cost to the local economy, while marine conservation expert Dr Miles Hoskin holds a very different view. Read both here.
David Barnicoat writes:
Alarm bells should be ringing in the corridors of power at County Hall and at Westminster with the news that redundancies are on the cards at the A&P Falmouth ship repair yard.
It was announced last Monday that up to a quarter of all jobs at the docks could be lost due to a downturn in commercial ship repair work, the loss of an important Ministry of Defence contract and on-going delays to a capital dredging project.
But the problems facing the port go far deeper than job cuts.
A&P had hoped to win a major contract for this month to refit ocean survey vessel HMS Scott, but it was awarded to Babcock International despite a very competitive bid.
A&P managing director Peter Child said the repair cycle of the yard’s Ministry of Defence contracts, combined with a depressed commercial shipping market and continued delays to the dredging of Falmouth Harbour to allow access by bigger vessels, meant a temporary reduction in workforce was unavoidable.
The capital dredging project has been rumbling along for over a decade. Shipping is a dynamic, fast moving business where decisions have to be made fairly quickly otherwise customers are very quickly lost.
Captain Mark Sansom, Falmouth Harbour Commissioners’ chief executive and the port’s Harbour Master said: “Falmouth Harbour Commissioners obviously regret any loss of employment due to the downturn in ship repair activities. We believe that the dredging of an improved approach into Falmouth Harbour is key to the sustainability, development and growth of the port.
“We are committed to facilitating the dredging as part of the Port of Falmouth Masterplan and believe that it will provide substantial economic benefits.
“We have contracted a trial aimed at providing more information to the Marine Management Organisation whose role it is to determine the consent applications in relation to the dredge. We are expecting the results of the trial to be reported early in the new year.”
In total 78 jobs could be lost at the yard, with a knock-on effect that could cost the local economy £4 million a year. Cornwall Council recognises the fact that every job at A&P Falmouth supports a further 1.5 jobs locally. The financial impact is therefore significant.
Falmouth’s MP, Sarah Newton, is expected to visit the yard next week to meet with members of the management team and workers.
Mr Keven Johnston, GMB senior representative and chairman of the CVC (Combined Yard Committee) said in a written statement: “At this grave moment in time we face a very difficult situation with the prospect of 78 job losses. The unions and company are working very hard together to try to mitigate the job cuts, as this not only affects the local workforce but the community. Due to the lack of dredging, the loss of some MoD work and other port development and the depressed commercial market it is an uphill struggle.
“We hope that the company can obtain more work and that the local community and surrounding areas will get behind the dredging, as all these things combined could alleviate some of these problems.”
Mr Child said: “The commercial shipping market is still in deep recession. A&P’s ability to access one of the few growth markets, namely repairs of bigger ships berthed alongside rather than in dry-dock, was severely hampered by the lack of significant progress on the Falmouth Harbour dredging project, which meant the yard had turned work away.”
In today’s shipping world, most vessels only dry-dock every five years. Advances in underwater technology, advanced painting systems and specialist repair companies allow ship owners to carry out “in-water” and alongside repair work at a deep-water berth.
Mr Child explained that the yard could accommodate Suezmax tankers, large bulk carriers and gas tankers if the dredging went ahead.
Falmouth is the only ship repair port on the English Channel south coast that could handle these large vessels on the extended Queen’s/Northern Arm jetty.
The number of cruise calls has remained almost static in recent years with passenger numbers down from 60,000 to 25,000 over the past five years.
A new deep water channel and berth could see Falmouth double the number of cruise ship calls in three years allowing mega cruise vessels to call here.
On Sunday morning the RCCL cruise ship Independence of the Seas, with 5,000 passengers and crew, slow steamed past Falmouth on her way from Southampton to Cobh, in Ireland. If Falmouth had had the deep water facilities it so vitally needs the vessel could have called here for a day-long visit and still been in Cobh the following morning .
Regarding future investment in Falmouth, Mr Child said: “Dredging and a new deep water wharf is the long-term future for the port and Cornwall. Provided that the cost of the environmental requirements are affordable I am positive that it will go ahead.”
Ship traffic off Falmouth
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