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Letter: Woo foreign shipbuilders with freeports and a naval order book

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vision of a giant floating wind farm in the Irish Sea will fail for the same reason as the National Shipbuilding Strategy: the absence of efficient, world-class marine engineering on British shores (Report, March 17).

While every other sector of UK industry has benefited from the arrival of overseas expertise, British shipyards stayed resolutely in British hands and died resolutely in British hands. Today, what’s left is either tiny, moribund or hopelessly uncompetitive.

If the British government wants a renaissance in heavy marine engineering, it should use the twin attractions of a big naval order book and freeports to lure major South Korean and Japanese marine engineering companies to take over rusting slipways on the Clyde, the Tyne and on Belfast Lough.

This approach worked wonders for the UK’s luxury car industry, after all. Twenty years after going into foreign ownership, Bentley and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars are both billion-pound exporters with record sales. If German expertise can revive Britain’s luxury car industry, then Korean and Japanese expertise can revive British shipbuilding. It just requires the swallowing of a little nautical pride.

Phil Radford
Sydney, NSW, Australia

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