Time to pull out all stops to save yard

CONCERN ... for the future of McNulty Offshore in South Shields.
CONCERN ... for the future of McNulty Offshore in South Shields.

POLITICIANS, a shipyard boss and union leaders today urged administrators to “pull out all the stops” to save a South Tyneside yard from closure.

Workers at McNulty Offshore in South Shields reacted with shock and anger this week after the facility was placed into administration, with the loss of 100 jobs.

A decline in orders has been blamed for the crisis at the yard, which has secured an international reputation over more than 20 years for its onshore and offshore expertise.

South Shields MP David Miliband is pressing administrators KPMG to do all they can to secure a buyer.

He said: “This is very disappointing news, but as the administrator has said, McNulty and, above all, its employees have a good track record.

“I have been visiting the yard for 10 years and know that the men there can do a brilliant job.

“I will be contacting the administrators to urge them to make good on their hope of finding a new owner.”

McNulty has won a spate of offshore and renewable energy contracts recently with such green energy field leaders as Blyth-based Narec.

Other recent projects have included a topside substation for the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm Development, off the Thames Estuary, plus a jacket substructure for the Thanet Offshore Sub-Station, quite apart from numerous subsea structures for various oil and gas projects.

But GMB regional officer Mick Blench, who has special union responsibilities for the yard, said rumours started circulating in recent months about work drying up at the facility, whose operations are centred around a fabrication and deep water quay, off Commercial Road, South Shields.

Mr Blench said: “There had been rumblings of trouble and that the company had financial difficulties. Work seems to have been dropping off since the middle of last year.

“But it still came as a big surprise when the administrators were called in last Friday – which I knew nothing about.

“I received a call on Monday and went down to the yard, to discover the men had been called into the canteen to be given the bad news.

“The workforce is absolutely gutted at being told at just a moment’s notice.

“All we can do in the short-term is hope that all the stops will be pulled out, so that a buyer can be found for McNulty as soon as possible.”

Stewart Boak, managing director at neighbouring borough yard A&P Tyne, Hebburn – which has suffered its own job losses recently, after the switch of a defence contract section to BAE Portsmouth – expressed sympathy for McNulty Offshore.

He said: “This is obviously very sad for McNulty’s and all who work there.

“A&P and McNulty’s have been the mainstay of riverside employment for decades, while other companies have come and gone.

“Over the years we have co-operated with McNulty’s to deliver fast-track, complex projects. At one stage, we had over 2,000 people working in the Hebburn yard.

“Hopefully, a solution can be found to save the McNulty business, so that along with OGN, SMD, Shepherd’s and other riverside businesses we can again establish the River Tyne as a major force in supporting and delivering into the marine, oil and gas and offshore wind renewable markets.”

A 30-strong skeleton staff is left at the yard, which employed 500 to 600 workers only last year.

Administrators KPMG say they are already in talks with “interested parties” and are hopeful of securing a sale of the yard and eventually re-employing redundant staff.

Coun Michael Clare, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for regeneration, economic growth and jobs, said: “We are sorry to hear about McNulty’s going into administration, but we are encouraged to hear that the administrators are optimistic about finding a buyer for the business.

“We are working with Jobcentre Plus to ensure that people who have been made redundant have access to all the information, advice and support they need to enhance their prospects of finding new employment.”

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