Page 18: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (March 1985)
A Marine Industry Review
Merchant shipbuilding in Britain is going through a period of radical change and innovation aimed at overcoming the effects of falling de- mand for tonnage worldwide. Cur- rent strategy is concentrated on re- ducing head-on competition with the "price-leaders" of the Far East, and capitalizing on computer tech- nology to refine specialized designs and products.
The nationalized British Ship- builders Corporation's 20 or so yards account for 85 percent of Brit- ain's merchant shipbuilding ton- nage, the other major shipyard be- ing Harland & Wolff of Belfast,
Photo-Atlantic Conveyor, a sophis- ticated Ro/Ro container vessel built for Cunard by Swan Hunter Ship- builder. which, although nationalized, is un- der the direct control of the North- ern Ireland Office. British Ship- builders also accounts for more than 90 percent of warship construction in the U.K. at present, although the warship building yards have been offered for sale under current Gov- ernment policy, and some are al- ready subject to negotiation with private consortiums. The remaining independent shipbuilders comprise a number of small yards engaged in building coastal ships, tugs, offshore craft, and patrol boats.
Over the past year or so the five divisions of British Shipbuilders have been reduced to two in the merchant and warship fields, while some offshore and general engineer- ing companies have been sold off, including the Scott Lithgow yard on the Clyde, which has been sold to
Trafalgar House for offshore con- struction.
This leaner, fitter national ship- building corporation has benefitted from a reduced and restructured work force with the abolition of restrictive work practices that so hindered competitive ability in the past. At the same time there has been a massive investment in com- puter-aided design and manage- ment technology, with a noticeable improvement in productivity.
With the largest percent of the world market already claimed by production in the Far East, the Cor- poration's strategies are directed to- wards retaining a world market share of 1.25 percent, a modest enough share for a once great ship- building nation, but a realistic one.
A versatile range of vessels is now offered, from tugs and service craft through RO/RO ships and tankers, bulk carriers, and sophisticated con- tainerships, while the offshore in- dustry is supplying valuable con- tracts for a variety of support craft.
The current merchant shipbuild- ing orderbook has a good export content, with vessels being built for
Canada, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Ice- land, Kenya, and Mexico.
Recent deliveries have included the sophisticated RO/RO-contain- ership Atlantic Conveyor for Cu- nard Steamship Company, the 6,000-ton cable repair ship Pacific
Guardian for Cable & Wireless, and three vessels for Norwegian inter- ests—the 42,000-dwt bulk carrier
Hoegh Duke, and the 45,000-dwt 20 Maritime Reporter/Engineering News