Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd
The last family run shipyard
This picture was uploaded to Clydesite on 19th April and shows the latest
newbuilds on the slip at Ferguson Shipbuilders by Gerry Deegan.
For over 100 years, a family run concern has been building
ships on the Clyde. Admittedly not the same family, and there have been
periods where it has been part of other companies, but now, under the
stewardship of a Clyde family, the Dunnets, Ferguson Shipbuilders has
endured some of the worst periods of the Clyde's history.
Due to launch another ship today, Thursday 28th April 2005, ( mv JURA,
a fisheries protection vessel, on the 28th April ) will they ride out
the current crisis in shipbuilding?
It has been 10 years since, as it was called then, Ferguson Marine, was
bought out by Holland
House with a bid of £4.9M. The previous board was replaced by Mr Frank
Dunnet, Chairman, and Mr Alan Dunnet, Chief Executive. I have heard that
the older Mr Dunnet had said he always wanted to own a shipyard.
In that time the yard has seen phenomenal successes and periods of intense
anxiety. We approach one again ten years on.
|ISLE OF LEWIS 1995 - Passenger Car Ferry
RED EAGLE 1995 - Passenger Car Ferry
TYSTIE 1996 - Tug
DUNTER 1996 - Tug
STIRLING CLYDE 1996 - Offshore Supply Ship
BLUEFIN 1997 - Dredger
SCOTIA 1998 - Fisheries Research Ship
STIRLING TAY 1998 - Offshore Supply Ship
STIRLING SPEY 1999 - Offshore Supply Ship
STIRLING IONA 2000 - Anchor Handling Tug
POLE STAR 2000 - Lights Tender Supply Ship
SOUND OF SCARBA 2001 - Passenger Car Ferry
HEBRIDES 2001 - Passenger Car Ferry
STIRLING JURA 2002 - Supply vessel offshore tug
SOUND OF SHUNA 2003 - Car Passenger Ferry
SPIRIT OF THE TAY 2003 - Steamship Building
CEFAS ENDEAVOUR 2003 - Fishery Research Vessel
MINNA 2003 - Fisheries protection vessel
PLYM II 2004 - Chain Ferry Building
LYNHER II 2004 - Chain Ferry Building
TAMAR II 2005 - Chain Ferry Building
Un-name - 2005 - Fisheries Protection Vessel
It is the little yard
that gets little attention. The bigger players on the upper river at Govan
and Scotstoun, carry extreme weight socially and politically. The slightest
whiff of a problem with orders, and politicians tremble. Ferguson's seems
to be the Cinderalla yard, but she is no drab.
Look at the list of ships that have slid down her cramped slipway in the
past ten years. Each of these means work to hundreds of men and women
and the suppliers who provide equipment and services to the yard. I have
been at a few of these launches and the pride that each worker there feels
manifests itself to such a degree, you really do feel a lump in your throat
and tears spring to your eye as the crowds cheer, the bagpipes play and
you watch the thread of history continuing.
Shipbuilding is unlike
any other industry. It is an emotional industry, producing machines that
will sail for twenty, thirty, maybe more years. And these machines mean
something to all the people they affect. The pride of the shipbuilder
is to know that - they are not making something you can throw away, it's
built to last and you are part of it's history.
On one of my visits to the yard, I was shown round by Mr Dave McCullagh,
a quiet man, and as he explained the intricacies of a launch you felt
that for him this was not just a job. Up in the offices was the manager,
a bluff no nonsense man. All around were workers, quietly going on with
their work - steel cutters, plate rollers, welders and all manner of tradesmen.
The quiet pride was tangible, real - understated but profoundly there.
day, it's a time to celebrate. But briefly. The work has only just begun
as a different set of workers do the fitting out, the painting and later,
the trials. Meanwhile the steel cutters are beginning the next vessel.
Hopefully too the designers are working away at the vessel to come after
that. Whilst the people charged with the nerve-racking task of submitting
tenders work as best they can to hammer out winning proposals. It has
to be that way - you can't be idle in a shipyard, especially in these
days of fierce, low-cost competition.
The first launch I attended was the STIRLING IONA on the 28th September
1999. It was a glorious day indeed, the sun shone, all the right dignitaries
were there, the school band, and the launch platform tarted up for the
occasion. From my vantage point above the entrance gate I could sense
the excitement in young and old and when she slid into the water I felt
my heart thump with pride. And I had nothing to do with the building of
it - I was there to take photies!
Friends with me, who prior to this day had no interests in ships whatsover,
felt it too and said it was the most emotional event they had been to
in years. They now understood my own passion for ships and shipbuilding
on the Clyde.
Since then I have seen two further launches, and the feeling is always
the same. Sheer pride.
This affects the communities around the shipyard, knowing that the name
of their town, in this case Port Glasgow, is proudly displayed on the
ships builders plate as the vessel runs the course of its life around
the UK, maybe even around the globe.
But the yard now is nearing yet another crisis point. Difficulties procuring
new contracts from their mainstay customers such as The Northern Lighthouse
Board and Caledonian MacBrayne, with their recent orders going to Polish
shipyards, means that after this launch, there is only one to go, the
last of the Torpoint ferries. Little work will remain for the steelcutters
and welders, and none for the designers.
Recently we should have heard about another fisheries vessel and a second
vessel to accompany the recently launched mv BUTE from Poland, but as
yet nothing has been heard.
34 temporary workers have already been sent their redundancy notices and
there are very real fears this could only be the start of lay offs as
work dries up.
Usually at a launch the opportunity is taken to announce new orders.
Let us hope this happens today, to give the yard some hope for the future.