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Tuesday, April 13, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK


Business: The Company File

A shipbuilding pedigree

Govan shipyard has struggled to make a profit since it was privatised in 1988

Shipbuilding on the Clyde was once at the heart of manufacturing in Scotland.

It employed more than 100,000 men during the early part of the century as they constructed some of the world's largest ships.

It was back in the 1879 that the yard showed its skill at building transatlantic liners. That was the year it built the Arizona, followed by the Alaska two years later and a string of other great ocean-going vessels of the same brand.


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By 1914 it was fully-integrated into the war effort and was to build 50 warships, 24 destroyers and nine submarines. Its output included the battleship Valiant and the battle-cruiser Reknown.

The inter-war years included the great depression but the yards were still an important part of Britain's economic backbone.

The end of the 1930s again saw what was to become the Govan yard contributing an important part of the British war machine. It made 24 destroyers and three tank landing craft among a host of other vessels.

Its work included constructing the aircraft carrier Implaccable, launched in 1944.

Civilian work

Its military orders continued to flow during the 1950s but merchant ships became more of its daily bread-and -butter.

In 1971, the then Upper Clyde shipbuilders went into receivership only to emerge the next year as Govan Shipbuilders Ltd. The yard was in turn nationalised in 1977 and became British Shipbuilders Ltd.

Orders this time around came from such diverse sources as Poland and companies in the US needing grain carriers.

State-control was to be relinquished in 1988 when Kvaerner bought the business back into private ownership. But unlike the halcyon days of the early part of this century when the yard was truly a world-beater, company coffers were never again to see a steady flow of healthy profits.





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