Redundancies at A&P Falmouth are inevitable as shipbuilding and ship repair sectors throughout Europe face a deepening global recession not seen since the mid-1980s.

In Falmouth there has been a distinct lack of commercial ships using the dockyard this year with the A&P Group heavily reliant on Ministry of Defence work to sustain its current workforce. Without this vital work the yard would, in my opinion, be heading for the rocks. RFA Tidespring is in dry-dock undergoing military customisation with RFA Tiderace expected here in mid September.

It is understood that talks are underway at the docks between unions and management regarding possible redundancies at the yard.

Despite commercial teams from various yards working flat out to secure commercial shipping contracts, northern Europe is in crisis as far as ship repair is concerned.

All hopes for the long-term future of Falmouth Docks are pinned on A&P Falmouth managing director Gerald Pitts. He is personally spearheading a management bid team for the A&P Group that will be tendering for part of a ten-year, £900 million pound Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract to refit and repair ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The “Future In Service Support” (FISS) contract runs from 2018 until 2028 and will see the 13 RFA ships and one Royal Navy ship split into three different capabilities. In Lot one are the ships Cardigan Bay, Lyme Bay, Mounts Bay, Argus and HMS Scott all of which, apart from Scott, have Falmouth as their current base port under the existing Cluster contract with the MoD.

Lot 2 comprises of the four Tide Class Mars tankers Tidespring, Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce. Wave Ruler, Wave Knight, Fort Rosalie, Fort Austin, and Fort Victoria make up Lot 3.

Invitations to tender for the FISS contract are expected to be issued this week. With the government in purdah, and the outcome of the General Election unknown, the whole tendering process is likely to take a long time.

The long-term future of the yard and hundreds of jobs will be secured if A&P wins a portion of the FISS, with the town reaping the financial benefits the MoD work injects into the local economy.

Across northern Europe though the situation is bleak as even the leading shipyards are cutting costs to survive in the volatile market. with many announcing major labour cutbacks.

German yard Lloyd Werft, in Bremerhaven, has announced it is trimming its workforce of 400 by 117 as it faces hard times.

In the Netherlands, ship repairer Damen has announced labour cuts at three yards by axing 150 jobs, blaming the dramatic decline in oil and gas business.

Damen said: “There is no recovery in sight for commodity prices in general and oil and gas prices in particular, and the resulting reduction in ship repair projects forces [the Damen Group] to review its situation.”

German yard Blohm+Voss, a leader in the cruise sector is facing a crisis as parent company Lurssen restructures the company with over 300 workers being laid off from the yard’s 1,000 plus workforce. B+V’s managing director Dieter Dehlke described the shipyard’s position as critical.

Ship owners are being very frugal with costs when addressing ship repair by only carrying out essential maintenance to comply with classification societies.

With modern paint systems and computer technology playing an important role in ship management ship owners can plan maintenance schedules more accurately.