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H&W Group: Reviving British shipbuilding

On Tuesday the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, headed to Devon in the southwest of the country to visit a historic shipyard, which has just been saved. UK firm InfraStrata has paid $9.2m to buy Appledore Shipyard, a niche shipbuilder that has been churning out ships for more than 150 years.

Last December, InfraStrata also bought out Belfast’s Harland & Wolff, the yard made famous for building the Titanic.

“This exciting new chapter for Appledore will create hundreds of new jobs in the southwest and beyond, and will drive forward our ambitions to become a shipbuilding superpower,” the prime minister said during his visit to the yard.

Shipbuilding in the UK has been in decline for generations and many facilities have closed resulting in skills being lost. As shipbuilding changes, the sector has become far more sophisticated and complex.

“The UK now has been able to find a niche back in this market,” argues InfraStrata CEO John Wood in an exclusive interview with Maritime CEO today. “Along with the government’s new shipbuilding strategy, including the potential for financing solutions, the UK can now look forward to building a successful nation of shipbuilders once more.”

InfraStrata anticipates around 150 vessels that will require construction within the next 10 years. The two yards acquired over the last nine months are strategic – H&W (Belfast) at the top end of the market servicing vessels above 300 m, and the rebranded H&W (Appledore) at the bottom end with vessels under 119 m.

The H&W Group, which includes the Belfast and Appledore facilities, will be managed by a single managing director. Appledore will supply modules and blocks into Belfast and Belfast is likely to deal with any overspill work from Appledore.

“We see enormous growth potential across our key markets which are defence, commercial, oil and gas, cruise and ferry and renewables,” Wood says. Within these sectors, H&W will be offering a complete lifecycle management solution including technical design, fabrication and construction, repair and maintenance, in-service support, conversion, and decommissioning.

Wood says InfraStrata has no plans to add to its portfolio of two yards at the moment. London-listed InfraStrata is focused on infrastructure development. The company’s chairman is Clive Richardson, the former CEO of shipmanagement giant, V.Group.

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