Cammell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead (320)
THE famous Cammell Laird name is to return to its historic shipyard home after an absence of six years.
Shipyard entrepreneur John Syvret has won the right to use the name after protracted negotiations with the Receiver of the former Cammell Laird company that collapsed in 2001.
The deal with the Receiver brings an end to years of struggle by Mr Syvret to restore shipyard work to Birkenhead after the original business closed down with the loss of thousands of jobs when a major contract went sour.
In the weeks following the collapse of the company, Mr Syvret tried to negotiate the acquisition of the Cammell Laird business from the Receiver, accountancy firm Pricewater-houseCoopers, but was beaten by Southampton-based rival A&P Group.
Since then, Mr Syvret has gradually built up his own shipyard business, serving the Irish Sea trade, at dry docks in Liverpool and other parts of Wirral. Then, three years ago, he succeeded in acquiring A&P’s Birkenhead yard and negotiated a long-term lease at the former Cammell Laird yard where his business now carries out ship repair and conversion work.
Mr Syvret, the former managing director of the collapsed Cammell Laird, says the return of the name marks a major landmark in the restoration of the shipyard industry to the Wirral town.
His current shipyard business, Northwestern Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders, will change its name to Cammell Laird before the end of the year.
Mr Syvret said last night: “I’m very proud of the fact that we have the shipyard back and now we have the name back, too.
“When Cammell Laird closed, I said I wanted to get the work back for the region and bring the men back to work here. We also wanted to bring back Ministry of Defence contracts to Birkenhead. I’m pleased to say we have achieved those objectives now. Now I have brought back the Cammell Laird name.”
With backing from Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, now part of Peel Holdings, Northwestern has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years.
Turnover has doubled year-on- year to stand at £42m in the 12 months to the end of May. “It employs 500 staff directly and over the last 12 months we have had up to 1,000 men in the yard, when you include sub-contractors,” added Mr Syvret.
Cammell Laird collapsed in April 2001 with £125m in debts after a major customer withdrew from a contract to insert a 28,000 tonne mid-section into its ship.
Italian cruise line Costa Crociere’s decision to pull out of the contract left the shipyard more than £40m out of pocket.
Until then Cammell Laird, then owned by Merseyside entrepreneur John Stafford, had enjoyed rapid growth. As well as Birkenhead, it owned shipyards in the North East, Oregon, Gibraltar and Marseilles.
The Italians withdrew from the contract claiming work had fallen too far behind schedule. The shipyard had already spent tens of millions of pounds completing the construction of the mid-section that would have lengthened the Italian vessel.
In 1998, Cammell Laird had one of the fastest growing share prices on the London Stock Exchange. By the end of 1998, the share price had increased tenfold since Cammell Laird’s stockmarket flotation 18 months earlier.
Northwestern has recently completed contracts for the Ministry of Defence and hopes to secure part of the work for the Royal Navy’s new multi-billion pound aircraft carriers.
History of an illustrious shipbuilder whose great work spanned more than two centuries >>>