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GLORY DAYS; 29 years after this Tees shipyard closed...the are here again.

Byline: By KAREN FAUGHEY

A NEW era in Teesside's proud industrial history starts tomorrow when a once thriving shipyard re-opens for business.

A pounds 150m contract awarded to Tees Alliance Group promises to bring a new lease of life to the Haverton Hill shipyard near Billingham and will create up to 800 skilled jobs.

Tomorrow marks the start of the first steel cutting as work gets under way to build two state of the art drilling rigs with the possibility of a third to follow.

It is said to be the biggest non-military fabrication project in the country.

The hulls for the giant drilling rigs are currently being built in Russia and will be transported to Teesside later in the year.

The Tees Alliance Group, whose members include Cleveland Bridge, McGill Services and K-Home Engineering, will then build the topsides.

The rigs, which have been commissioned by Sea Dragon Offshore, have been designed to work in tough conditions and once complete, will be used to drill for oil and gas in depths of up to 10,000ft in locations such as the Gulf of Mexico.

Chief executive of the Tees Alliance Group David Eason said: "The benefits of this project are quite simple. It will bring jobs, which is perhaps one of the most needed things on Teesside - not in call centres, but in the construction business.

"We've been leaders in offshore construction for most of the 70s and 80s and early 90s, but since then there's been nothing. Hopefully we are now back on track to become world leaders again."

Local businesses expressed delight today with the news of the new project.

Richard Clarke, from R Clarke and Sons butchers in Haverton Hill, said: "It's nice to see that it's finally going ahead because they have been talking about it for decades.

"It's come as quite a surprise to us though because we've heard it all before, but it seems to be booming down here on the north bank of the river.

"There's an awful lot going on.

They are building new chemical plants, which they haven't done for a long time. It's been a very busy and successful 2007 for the area, but this obviously promises that bit extra to come.

"When the shipyard closed all those years ago, it just about finished us because it was our sole business, but we've since diversified and we've now got a lot of passing trade because we're on such a busy junction."

For 60 years, the shipyard at Haverton Hill was one of the finest yards in Britain. Its eight building berths were capable of constructing vessels, which were up to 750ft long.

According to newspaper reports at the time - "Never was a yard so quickly in operation and the keel of the first 10,000-tonner was laid only three months after construction work had started on the yard".

This proud tradition sadly came to an end in February 1979 when the yard closed leaving 900 workers without jobs.

Graham Harod, the newsagent in nearby Port Clarence, is however hopeful that tomorrow's re-opening might mean even better things for his own business.

Mr Harod said: "Hopefully it will have an impact on my business. There will be more people coming into the area and that obviously means there will be more passing trade.

"Quite a lot of unemployed lads come into my shop. A lot of them used to be in that field of work, but there's been very little work for them recently.

Hopefully this could mean employment for a lot of them."

To see more nostalgic shots of the shipyard go to gazettelive

GALLERY

What the Gazette says: Page 20

We want your memories of the shipyards in their hey-day. Send stories and pictures to julie.martin@eveninggazette.co.uk or use the links from www.gazettelive.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Picture montage by Carl O'Hara; NEW LEASE OF LIFE: An aerial shot of the shipyard as it is today, above; ALL OUR YESTERDAYS: A vibrant yard giving employment to hundreds of people, above and right
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2008
Words:678
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