The future of Appledore Shipyard remains under negotiation. The formal closure of the Yard on 15th March marked the end of the marine activities conducted by Babcock International. Since the announcement, just before Christmas, a Taskforce has been working on options for the reopening of the Yard. This has included working with Babcock, who have offered temporary employment for the existing workforce. It has also been actively seeking opportunities for potential new marine contracts from private sector sources. This has proved to be an encouraging process and there are active negotiations with a number of companies who are exploring the potential to commission new vessels. Based upon a viable order book a private sector consortium is being assembled which is intending to take on the operation of the Yard. Whilst it is early days, the initial indications are positive that this may result in a resumption of operations. The ongoing work required to complete these negotiations is a Task Force including Torridge District Council, Devon County Council, Langham Industries (the owners of the premises), the Rt Hon Geoffrey Cox MP and South West Business Council.
Jenny Wallace – Head of Paid Service at Torridge District Council said: “The need to re-establish a viable business at Appledore is a top priority for everyone involved. Not only are the jobs a vital part of the Local Economy but they also support many within our communities. It is also vital that after a rich history of ship building in Northern Devon this facility should not be lost. When Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson visited Appledore and spoke about the Government’s programme for a new class of Warship, the Type 31e Frigate, the Ministry of Defence called Appledore, ‘an integral link in the production of ships for the Royal Navy’ and we hope that the sentiment behind those remarks can still be resurrected. Appledore Shipyard has already played a key role in contributing to the Navy’s two Aircraft Carriers, which will now require Escort Defence Ships such as Type 31e Frigates. We will do all we can to support Langham Industries, and the other organisations involved, in securing new contracts and a viable future for the yard.”
Devon County Council Leader John Hart said: “We’re fully behind these efforts to ensure the rich tradition of maritime engineering continues at Appledore. It’s hugely important to retain the skills that have been established locally over many years in the yard itself. But there are also many people who are employed locally in the firms and organisations that make up the supply chain for the yard. So a continuing and thriving shipyard means guaranteed jobs for that extended local workforce and good incomes for many local families.”
The Rt Hon Geoffrey Cox MP said: “Appledore is a central part of my constituency manufacturing base. It has been a vital part of supporting business growth. Its high reputation and grand value has encouraged other business activity within my constituency area. I am fully committed to supporting the work of the Local Taskforce in seeking to re-establish this business. I am also involved in high level negotiations with the relevant departments of Government to ensure that whatever Whitehall support is available can be identified as a matter of urgency.”
Tim Jones, Chairman of South West Business Council and Chair of the Taskforce said: “We continue to work tirelessly to achieve a new start for this business and to support the existing workforce and those within the Bideford area who have been part of its success. Negotiations to date are active and we are encouraged by the number of strong enquiries received from Companies seeking to place new marine contracts with the business. We expect to make good progress with the consortium over the next 6-8 weeks.”