A historic shipbuilding yard in north Devon is to reopen after it was bought by the natural gas storage company InfraStrata in a £7m deal on Tuesday.
The Appledore Shipyard, in Bideford, closed in March 2019 after its owners, Babcock, said its future was not secure, despite the offer of a £60m Ministry of Defence contract.
InfraStrata, which also owns Belfast’s Harland & Wolff (H&W), said the Appledore yard’s ability to cater for smaller vessels was “a market segment that cannot be ignored”.
Boris Johnson visited the site on Tuesday and said ithad a “massive history but it’s also got a great future”.
“What we want to do is to ensure that there’s a good enough stream of contracts coming through to drive jobs and growth here in Devon,” he said.
Unions welcomed the deal and urged the government to give the yard, which will be renamed H&W (Appledore), more orders.
InfraStrata said while the yard had been dormant in recent months and the acquisition came with only one employee – the site manager – the workforce could be “very quickly ramped up” if contracts for work were secured. Discussions were under way with the government and private vessel owners, InfraStrata said.
John Wood, the company’s chief executive, said: “The acquisition at this point in time is opportunistic for the company and one that should not be missed. It not only gives us a strategic foothold in mainland UK but also makes the overall business highly competitive in the smaller and higher ends of the shipyard market, respectively.”
The Appledore Shipyard dates back to 1865, and has built more than 300 vessels, including some of the Royal Navy’s latest aircraft carriers.
Ian Waddell, the general secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said: “The prospect of Appledore being reopened is great news for British shipbuilding and we welcome its purchase by InfraStrata.
“Appledore played a vital role making the complex bows for the aircraft carrier and it could play a similar role building the future solid support ship which the government must build in Britain in order to invest in our regional economies and get the economy back up and running.”
The GMB’s union regional organiser, Matt Roberts, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the confirmation that the yard will reopen. We have always firmly believed that the yard can be viable and thrive in the right hands.”