Work starts on Tyne dry dock

Shipbuilding could soon return to the Tyne as work by Cammell Laird, the UK ship repair and conversion group, starts on a state-of-the-art covered dry dock capable of constructing ships as large as 40,000 tonnes.

The resurgent Birkenhead-based firm bought the Hebburn on Tyne yard in 1998. It aims to excavate and desilt the 27m x 215m dock, which was filled in during the early 1970s, and construct the facility by mid-2001.

The new site is part of the firm’s bid to clinch a £240m deal to build six roll-on-roll-off ferries for the Ministry of Defence, and a contract for troop and supply ships worth up to £300m.

Cammell Laird last year won a £52m `jumboisation’ contract to cut the Italian cruise ship, the Costa Classica, in two and extend its length by almost 45m.

Work on the new dry dock is the final phase in Cammell Laird’s £15m investment in the complex, which now employs more than 1,000 people, including at least 100 apprentices. The company has also opened a £2m renovated dry dock at the adjacent former Hawthorne Leslie yard.