Full steam ahead and 300 jobs at Ferguson shipyard

Jim McColl has already reinstated 30 workers who were made redundant last August. Picture: Robert Perry
Jim McColl has already reinstated 30 workers who were made redundant last August. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE new owner of Ferguson Shipbuilders has revealed he plans to employ 300 staff and invest £8 million in the company.

And Jim McColl, Clyde Blowers Capital chairman, confirmed yesterday the yard had started to re-hire staff who were made redundant when the Port Glasgow shipbuilders went into administration in August.

He said that 30 of the 70 people who had been laid off had already been signed up and that this number would rise to 80 by November. Eventually the company would employ up to a total of 300 staff.

Speaking at the yard, Mr McColl said investment in the firm, which dates back to 1902, would go towards diversifying into servicing the oil and gas, marine and renewables sectors.

As part of an investment strategy to grow the Inverclyde-based business – which will be renamed Ferguson Marine Engineering – the firm aims to have a workforce of around 110 by early 2015.

Mr McColl said there was currently “very little work about in the yard”, but the firm was hopeful it would land an order for a ferry within the next few months.

He added: “We know that there is a tender coming out in October from CMal [Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd] for two 100-metre ferries. That is, I suppose, the biggest that we do in this yard, so we will be keen to be competitive in bidding for ferries.”

A lot of work and investment was needed, Mr McColl said, for the yard to be “competitive and attractive”.

He said he had earmarked around £8 million to invest immediately in the yard and said the long-term investment could rise to up to £60m if required.

When quizzed about what had changed to make the firm an attractive investment, Mr McColl said that there was work available, and that the firm had been approached with enquiries for new ships in January, but financial issues had restrained previous owner from taking them on.

He also said that the company would be unaffected by the referendum outcome.

GMB official Alex Logan, 53, who has been with the firm for 23 years, said: “At the very start, when we were told that it was going into administration, it was a total shock – nobody could believe it.

“We had a couple of mass meetings, had task forces set up by Scottish Government and once it came about Jim McColl was interested in buying the yard over, me and the other shop steward committee said to the lads to stick with us.

“I said, I knew it was tough but stick with us because we think this is the man who has the vision for the future to take shipbuilding forward on the lower Clyde again and, today, when he explained everything to the workforce, his vision, the investment they were going to put in, everyone was over the moon. Absolutely delighted.”

Laurence Gemmill, 44, who has worked for the yard for 19 years, said that he had been on holiday when he had first heard that the company had gone into liquidation.

“The future looks really good for Ferguson now – the best it has for a long, long time. In the two months before it went into administration, there wasn’t a lot of work and we were expecting a takeover.

“Obviously, this didn’t happen and it went the other way, into liquidation, which was a shock. I was on holiday at the time and I got a call telling me this had happened. I was gutted.

“I’ve started again today, actually. It’s been brilliant. But I’ll be even happier when all my friends and colleagues start back as well.

“It’s a small community in here – everyone knows everybody, we’re all friends and relatives.”