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Swan's close in on naval ship deal.

Byline: By Guy Anderson

Swan Hunter is close to clinching a pounds 30m naval deal which will create 200 jobs, and safeguard at least 1,500 more.

Winning the contract to build a hospital ship for the Ministry of Defence will plug a two-year work gap which was looming at the Wallsend yard from 2006.

Sources close to the yard confirmed the company is among few in the UK capable of carrying out the work and are confident of success.

A defence analyst said that Swan Hunter was understood to be close to winning the deal, but yesterday the company would not confirm or deny the speculation.

Jaap Kroese, chairman and owner of Swan Hunter, said the MoD will not announce the contract for several months.

He added: "This will be excellent news for Swan Hunter and the workforce at the yard.

"The contract will not only safeguard the existing jobs, it will create up to 200 new jobs. There will be no need for lay-offs."

Largs Bay and Lyme Bay - twin pounds 160m Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels - are currently under construction at Swan Hunter.

Due to be delivered to the MoD in 2006, it was feared the yard would stand idle until work begins on two giant aircraft carriers in 2008.

Swan's is preparing to double its 1,500-strong workforce to meet its share of the pounds 2.9bn naval contract, but a gap could have seen the yard mothballed. A defence analyst said yesterday: "The yard is in an extremely strong position to win this contract and I would be surprised if it went anywhere else."

A source at the yard said: "We always said that we needed something to carry the workforce through. We couldn't have paid people to stand idle."

A decision on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Joint Casualty Treatment ship contract is expected in the coming months, and is expected to last two years.

John Fyle, spokesman for the MoD Defence Procurement Agency, which will be responsible for awarding the contract, said: "A decision on the Joint Casualty Treatment ship contract will be made in due course, and has been open to competition.

"The specification at present relates to a vessel with not less than 150 beds and not less than eight operating tables."

News of the deal comes after Swan Hunter cut 120 jobs earlier this week. Workers recruited to help construct the Largs Bay and Lyme Bay did not have their contracts renewed.

A spokesman for the GMB union, which represents the workforce, said: "The workers leaving include riggers, platers, welders and craft assistants.

"However the possibility of any work which will create and safeguard jobs is to be welcomed."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 24, 2004
Words:447
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