Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Portsmouth shipbuilding loss 'tragedy for city'

Portsmouth dockyard
Image caption Portsmouth is renowned for its maritime history, much of which is displayed at its historic dockyard

For a city with a proud maritime history, the news that Portsmouth will lose its shipbuilding industry has been described as a "catastrophe".

About 900 job losses are expected at the BAE yard, which employs about 1,200 people.

The site will stay open, with a focus on repairs and maintenance, but there is no prospect of new ships.

For the south coast port, which considers itself the home of the Royal Navy, it is a big blow.

'Scrap heap'

The city's maritime links are clear for any visitor to see.

Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose, HMS Victory, from which Admiral Nelson commanded victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and the battleship HMS Warrior are proudly displayed in the city's dockyard.

Image caption Derek Brown, who was a shipwright for 40 years, said he felt for those affected

The Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers will be based at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard - which was under threat a few years ago.

Losing shipbuilding will be felt far and wide across the Solent region.

Many workers said they had been "forbidden" to speak to the media as they left the Portsmouth yard following the announcement.

But one, who did not want to be named, described a "bad mood" among staff.

"Basically there's about six months work left," he said.

"It's not really unexpected, we knew it was coming."

Another added: "It's a sad day for the loss of work in the South yet again.

"[It's] a political decision for Scotland to have all the work and us have nothing."

The mood in Portsmouth earlier matched those of the workers.

Image caption Mike Hancock MP has long campaigned for shipbuilding in the city

Derek Brown, who started 40 years of work as a shipwright when he was 15, said: "For years it's been run down but it's unfortunate a lot of people will lose their jobs - people with mortgages and bills to pay.

"When I first went in there was 22,000 people working in there. It was a job for life then but times change."

Patricia Hawkins added: "Portsmouth will be a ghost town. We'll end up with a museum not a dockyard and what happens when we need ships to go to war again?"

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said the news was a "personal tragedy for everyone who's going into work in the yard today".

He added: "And that's a personal tragedy for them and a catastrophe for the city of Portsmouth to lose so many highly-skilled jobs which will be virtually impossible to replace in that line.

"I think it's a national disgrace that we're going put all their expertise and investment that's gone into the yard in Portsmouth at risk by closing it down and putting all your eggs into one basket."

Ian Woodland, South East regional officer for the Unite union, said the news means skilled workers will be left on the "scrap heap".

"[The] Tories are clueless about how to deal with BAE job losses in Portsmouth. Where will these people work?," he said.

"There are no jobs for these workers.

"BAE job losses in Portsmouth will affect [the] whole of Solent area. Many BAE employees [also] live in Southampton."

Maureen Frost, executive director of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said it would be working with the city council to try and help those affected.

"Losing the shipbuilding side is devastating news for the city," she added.

"It's also about the supply chain and those small businesses that supply into BAE Systems so there's going to be a major impact.

"It may not just be one person in one family, with the tradition of shipbuilding here sometimes it's the whole family involved."

BAE launched a review of its defence work 18 months ago when it became apparent that future work, following the completion of the new aircraft carriers, was unlikely to sustain yards in Portsmouth as well as Govan and Scotstoun in Scotland.

And it is Portsmouth that will make way.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites