New ship breaking yard torpedoes our shipbuilding future - Kenny MacAksill

I’m usually very keen to laud job creation, especially in areas are scarred by unemployment, but the welcoming of the ship breaking yard at Inverclyde drydock causes me huge concern, and the fawning sycophancy of some local politicians beggars belief.

Peel Ports’ Inchgreen dry dock will be brought back into full industrial use but its role as a ship breaker's yard - instead of a shipbuilding yard - is a missed opportunity, writes Kenny MacAskill. Picture: Ant Clausen Photography

Of course, the area’s crying out for investment and work, but this is damaging to prospects for shipbuilding on the Lower Clyde which offers a far more lucrative return for community and workforce.

Instead, this is akin to old colliery towns welcoming an open cast site when our pits were still open. Or, as I’ve also experienced, some politicians asking for a prison to be built as a sort of job creation scheme for their locality. Both are cries of despair – any port in a storm, I suppose for them.

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An expert in maritime matters I know was saying that ship breaking tends to be located in developing countries, while developed nations tend to prefer ship building. That’s where the skilled work is and the higher wages that follow. You’d have thought that on the Clyde with all its past history and current skill base you’d prefer the latter?

But, it’s the long term implications that most concern me. This restricts the potential expansion of the Ferguson Yard at Port Glasgow. The Inchgreen drydock was wanted by entrepreneur Jim McColl when he first took over the Ferguson Yard. With ships aplenty crying out to be built for Cal Mac to provide for our beleaguered islands you’d have thought it was a “no-brainer” for those now in charge of the yard. Given it’s the Scottish Government who are now operating not just the Ferguson Yard but the ferries too, you’d think it would be a case of ‘simples’. But no.

Peel Ports, which owns the drydock and will lease it to Atlas Decommissioning, also run Cammell Laird shipyard on the Mersey. A potential conflict of interest you might think. The decision to impede future shipyard expansion and instead create a ship-breaking site is, perhaps, understandable from their narrow commercial interests given it creates a return without threatening their Mersey yard.

But it’s certainly not beneficial from the perspective of Inverclyde or Scotland. Instead, this is torpedoing our shipbuilding future.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba MP for East Lothian

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