THE sky is the limit for an ambitious South Tyneside firm celebrating the successful completion of a £60m aircraft carrier contract.
Staff at A&P Tyne in Hebburn have been working for 18 months on a project to build components for the HMS Prince of Wales – one of two new-generation carriers currently being built for the Royal Navy.
More than 1,000 tonnes of parts for the carrier – to be used in the flight deck – were shipped off on a barge yesterday from the River Tyne, bound for Rosyth in Scotland, where the ship is being assembled.
A&P had already supplied modules for the first new carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, in 2011.
The Royal Navy contract has provided a “massive boost” for the group, with more than 400 people devoted to working on the project.
Darren Brown, managing director of A&P Tyne, said: “There are only five yards in the country that have been involved in the project, and we are the only one involved in the North East.
“We have built four upper blocks for the aircraft carrier. Three of them are between 400 and 500 tonnes and one is 850 tonnes. It has been a lot of hard work, but it has been worth it.
“We have delivered the work on time, and it is of an excellent quality. It is a great boost to our CV when we go in for other projects and we have bids lined up for other work.
“The work we have done for the Royal Navy will be a great help to us.
“It has been massive for us and a superb contract for A&P.”
Yesterday, the huge prefabricated modules were slowly inched on to a waiting barge at the yard.
The barge was then towed down river on the first stage of its journey to the Firth of Forth.
Mr Brown added: “It is a proud moment for myself and for all the workforce here.
“It has been a tough 18 months or so, but now we are getting the reward. It has been the biggest contract in our history.
“It sends out a message that we have the skill sets and the quality of labour to deliver major fabrication projects.”
The Royal Navy contracts had an average of 220 people working solely on them, with production numbers peaking at 450.
About 400 people are currently employed by the the yard, on the Wagonway Road Industrial Estate in Hebburn.
Mr Brown says the joint aircraft carrier projects – which have provided a steadly supply of work for the past four years – have brought stability to the company and the workforce.