Cammell Laird


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Gavin Murphy

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To All,

Bad news from England:

According to Auntie, AKA the BBC, Cammell Laird, the famous shipbuilding yard on the Wirral that build the 2nd Mauretania amongst others, is now on life support. Its future looks bleak and it was expected to announce liquidation earlier today. (May already have.) Hundreds of jobs are at risk in Merseyside and the North East of England.

Part of the problem resulted from a cruise ship fiasco with the Italian cruise ship Costa Classica a few months ago, leaving the yard with no contract and an unwanted mid-section for the cruise liner. Also, negotiations for two cruise ships for the US company Luxus have proven difficult after loan guarantees from the UK gov't fell through.

Larids' decision to move from ship repairing to trying to build liners may have been the final straw.

Maybe some of the Scousers on the board can provide more details. Geoff?

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Philip Hind

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I can't figure out why they spent 40m building that section of liner if they hadn't been paid for it! Aparently the liner got half way to England and turned back.
 
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Gavin Murphy

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The bad news is confirmed.

Lairds has now called in the receivers, putting hundreds of jobs at risk. DTI has said it will work with the receivers, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to try and find a buyer to rescue the yard.

Things look grim and many say this is the end of the line.

The original Lairds closed in 1993 after 170 years of shipbuilding. The current Lairds grew out of Coastline group, which initially rented space from the derelict Cammell Laird dockyard. In the mid-1990s, it changed its name to Cammell Laird, growing from a small operation to employing 100s as it built a lucrative and profitable trade repairing and refitting vessels. But the attempt to break into the cruise shipbuilding market appears to have now backfired.

As well as the 2nd Mauretania, the yard built the Windsor Castle, the Alabama of US Civil War fame, and the RN's Ark Royal and Prince of Wales.

In 1858 it built the world's first steel ship and in the 1920s the first all-welded ship.

Sad, non?????

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I. M. McVey

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This is also relevant to American readers, as Laird's holdings include the shipyard at Portland, Oregon. This will certainly have an impact on American shipping companies, since this yard does repairs and maintenance for ships based on the US West Coast.

I have to wonder, after a number of years in this profession, if in 20 years, all the yard work will be done in Asia. The trends have certainly been going that way, at least for Pacific-based ships. Mr Murphy, it is indeed sad, I agree.

Kind regards, Ilya M
 
Dec 13, 1999
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According to latest reports, all is not yet lost! Edward Klempka, Receiver for the firm Pricewaterhouse-Cooper, and the man who saved the Swan Hunter shipyard in the North East, has started work at Cammell-Laird and claims to be "encouraged" by what he has seen. He seems to think that a buyer can be found - but one willing to take on those debts? I wonder. Watch this space.......
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I'll be watching this with interest. Hopefully the American holdings can make a useful difference. I'd hate to see yet another peice of our maritime history go down the tubes.

BTW Ilya, nice picture in the profile. Is this a bridge simulator at the school you're attending or a real ship?

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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I. M. McVey

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Dear Michael,

A number of my ships have had re-fit in the Portland Yard, but it's a very tough call as to how it will go. As time goes on, it just feels like more and more of the 'wealthier' nations want to get out of all aspects of the shipping business -- from crewing, on to operating, building, and repairs. I hope something good will happen, but I've watched the lights go out in too many yards and companies the last 15 years...

Glad you liked the photograph! It is a couple of years old (I am largely unchanged), and it is the bridge of a real ship. Were it a school photograph, I would be all fancy in a uniform, etc, but I will not put those kind of incriminating photographs on the net! ;-)

I was a working mariner before stopping to attend this school (and give them all my earnings), so I have a few albums full of me and my friends on various ships. This was one of the few really nice ones. Many of the others seem to involve unflattering pictures of me after hours or days of no sleep -- or me and my closest mates being silly, squirting each other with water, etc.

Oops, there went my reputation as a serious grump! Ah, well, truth to tell, have a rep in the real world as a rather merry fellow, and I like it that way!

Geoff, thanks for the updates and I shall, indeed, watch this space. Of course, if I hear anything from Fairplay, etc, I shall post it here immediately, as well.

Cheers to all, Ilya M
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hey shipmate, post all the incriminating pics you want. We'll keep your secrets. (Now where is my phone number for the National Enquirer? Ha ha!)

Seriously, I know what you mean by the declining number of shipyards in the "wealthier nations" and I think it's a habit that's ultimately going to bite us in the butt sooner or later. Seems everytime I get an updated copy of Jane's fighting ships, I see fewer and fewer shipyards listed in the intro page for each nation. In the United States, I've lived to see Mare Island, Charleston, and the Philidelphia Naval Shipyards closed down, and at present, there are only two shipyards in the U.S. capable of building nuclear powered vessels.

Civilian shipyards, I've noticed aren't faring all that well either. Penn Ship went belly up ten years ago, Lockheed Shipbuilding has gone away, and it seems that the surviving shipbuilders are struggling to hold on as military contracts dry up, and commercial shipping lines find it cheaper to build elsewhere.

Sometimes, I have the sense that we're really digging our own graves here in maritime matters.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Gavin Murphy

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The Lairds' receivers are hoping for the best and we have our fingers crossed. But just today they announced the loss of 320 jobs; 60 on Tyneside, 150 at Birkenhead and the closing of the Teesside yard with the loss of another 110 jobs.

The fall out is happening already.

Michael, I was interested in your comments. It is the same story in Canada. We now only have 3,000 shipbuilders in the entire country and the future looks grim. Rather ironic considering we are surrounded by three oceans. BTW, we have a big merchant marine, but most of it is flagged offshore. But I suppose we will leave that one for another time.

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Jul 9, 2000
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Ah...3000 shipbuilders? I take it that takes into account those who build small craft or is that a typo? No matter. We have a pretty big merchent marine also, though most of that is also foreign flagged. Kind of sobering.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Erik Wood

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It is far cheaper to run a foriegn flagged ship then a US flagged one. Look at Carnival. ALL of it's ships are Panama or Bahamas. None US.

Erik
 
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Gavin Murphy

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Michael, no that is not a typo. The 3,000 is from large scale shipyards, not those that build small craft. I would suspect, too, that most of the work is actually ship repairing. St. John's, Saint John, Halifax, Davie in Quebec and yards in BC represent the main players. Maybe also Port Weller in the Great Lakes.

Erik, good point. But flags of convenience are often a bag of snakes. Bad working conditions, etc. Maybe not for officers, but for the crew. I also know you have to stay competitive and that is the way of the world. Nevertheless, I reckon it is sort of like Nike manufacturing its trainers in the Far East under abysmal working conditions.

The Summit of the Americas opens this week in Quebec City and some of those corporate operations in low cost countries are on the agenda of the demonstrators. I think they have a good point.......

Enough, enough.......

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Erik Wood

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In a way though I think that America especially dug it's own grave when it comes to steel, the steel industry in ship building and then the whole shipping industry.

My great grandfather was Max Weisbarth. He started the sailors unions on the west coast mainly San Fransisco and Seattle. Mainly he worked alot for Matson since that was the big line on that side of the country. But it is because of these unions that are driving companies to go elsewhere where it is cheaper to make something. This is happening to LTV steel here in Cleveland.

Although I love working for Carnival I have to say that the standards have improved a lot over the last couple of years. But the fact that well over 75% of it's officers and crew are of a foreighn nationality because of the flag state those crewmembers are not paid as well as American Officers and crews of the same job. I think that it is those ships flagged under Liberia and places like that you have to watch out for. I have found that Panama, Bahamas, UK, places of that sort are for the most part pretty good about things.

Erik
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hi Gavin. 3000 it is then. I think you're correct about repair work being their bread and butter. When I was stationed at Norfolk on the George Washington, the area was lousy with shipyards, but the only one actually building anything was Newport News, Shipbuilding And Drydock Co.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Gavin Murphy

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If anyone is still interested, and I would be happy to hear what Fairplay's take on all this is Ilya--

A compnay owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland is reported to be interested in bidding on Lairds, days after the bank appointed receivers to sell the yard.

A&P Group, shiprepairers, is the company in question.

This could mean two things. The yard may become primarily a shiprepairer, rather than shipbuilder.

But more disturbingly, or am I reading too much into this?, is there a possiblity of a conflict of interest in that A&P is owned by the bank who appointed the receiver to dispose of the yard?

Comments?

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Dec 13, 1999
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There is also news of a management takeover - though I very much doubt that this will come to fruition. Also interested is one of the N.E. Shipbuilding yards - 'tho I would have thought that they had enough problems of their own! Whatever happens, the first batch of workers were laid off today - brought forward be a week - so things are not looking good.
 

Erik Wood

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Looks like the shipping industry is becoming a very small business for the traditionalist.

Erik
 
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