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Sunday, 2 February, 2003, 12:54 GMT
'Greatest day for shipbuilding'
Swan Hunter shipyard
The Swan Hunter shipyard will share in the work
A multi-billion pound order to build the next generation of Britain's aircraft carriers has been dubbed "the greatest day for shipbuilding in the north-east of England".

Union officials said the news that yards on the Tyne and Tees were to share in the BAE Systems-led contract to build two new carriers for the Royal Navy, would create thousands of jobs.

The contract is expected to create about 2,000 jobs and secure a further 10,000 at UK shipyards.

Kevin Curran, northern regional secretary of the General, Municipal and Boilermakers' Union (GMB) said: "This is fantastic news for the UK manufacturing.

Kevin Curran
Kevin Curran: Proud day for the North East

"It's is great news for working people in our country, and it's a wonderful boost for those of us who want to maintain a manufacturing industry in this country."

Mr Curran, whose union represents shipyard workers on the Tyne and Tees, added: "Today is a proud and emotional day for me - and for all those who have worked so hard to revive the shipyards.

"When I first came to the North East from London in 1997, I was told the Shipyards were a 'sunset' industry.

"However, today we have proven that there can be a sustainable future for our shipyards and UK manufacturing if we have the leadership, the commitment and the political will to make it happen.

"The Government deserves great credit for their support for the UK's manufacturing industry.

'Biggest decision'

"They have made the right decision to locate the work in this country.

"Their commitment to our industry stands in sharp contrast to the Tories - who closed the yards in the first place."

North East regional secretary of the engineering union Amicus, Davey Hall said: "This is effectively the biggest decision that the MOD have taken in decades and is a much needed shot in the arm for shipbuilding and the wider manufacturing sector in the North East.

"The government has made good its commitments in the Strategic Defence Review and this is potentially excellent news for the North East.

"It is vital that the contract allows each UK yard to play to its strengths.

Shared work

"In North East it is essential that we continue to develop an integrated design and manufacturing capability."

The work is to be shared with rival bidder Thales, a French company, who will provide the main design.

Both firms have promised to carry out most of the work in the UK.

The Ministry of Defence order is made up of 2.9bn in building costs for two aircraft carriers, but billions of pounds will also be spent on maintaining the ships over their service lives.

The two 950ft long, 60,000 tonne carriers will be the biggest British warships ever built.

They will replace the Royal Navy's three existing carriers, Illustrious, Invincible and Ark Royal.

The BBC's Ian Reeve
"This is what Swan Hunter has been waiting for"

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26 Jan 03 | Business
21 Jan 03 | Business
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