Opinion | British Shipbuilding Suffering Investment Shortfall

Someone was upset by my comments about Grangemouth!! Watching Question Time from Portsmouth, it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t far off the target. Cameron is scared that the Scots will vote to leave the UK; and it was commented pretty widely that killing off shipbuilding in Portsmouth in favour of keeping it on in the Clydeside yards is blackmail. (The government stance being “so long as the Scots stay in the UK”.)

One person on the QT panel suggested that we should be building cruise ships in the redundant yard; we simply don’t have the capability. Someone I know, who was an engineering college lecturer watched a programme on the Quest channel about the building of the Emma Maersk container ship; he said that he realised watching the technology brought to bear in Korea was way beyond anything we had ever had in the UK for building ships, and we clearly couldn’t even hope to compete with them – not because there was anything wrong with our workforce, but our shipyard owners simply hadn’t made the investment or had the foresight to bring in such innovations.

What has happened so often in the UK is that, in stead of innovating and re-investing in newer and better technology, management policy has been to try to force the workforce to work harder, for less money, and produce better quality at the same time. And that is fundamentally doomed to failure: humans can’t compete with machines. However, more now than ever, many UK employers expect their employees to make the “investment” of lower pay, longer hours, lower pensions, etc., in order to boost their wealth, rather than investing in modernising and more efficient plant so as to build a sound and better future for all.

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