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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Please stop having a go at Barrow’s fantastic boats

WE’RE a little bit proud here in Furness of our boats. Any keel laying, launch, or final departure of a vessel from the Barrow yard is a huge moment for the people of the area.

EM Darren McSweeney
Darren McSweeney

The hours toiled in design and construction, and the men and women who commit their working lives to the craft of shipbuilding, are still the beating heart of Barrow that has survived years of decline in UK industry.

The sense of pride extends way beyond employees and their families; it spreads through the whole area. Think back to the sinking of HMS Sheffield in the Falklands war, a horrific tragedy in which 20 men lost their lives, but the loss of the vessel itself was just as heavy on the hearts of grown men who built her in the 1970s.

The departure of HMS Invincible, with an Evening Mail wraparound picture cover carrying the simple headline “GODSPEED” still sticks firmly in my mind from 1980, as I’m sure it does for many others. The roll-out of the Vanguard class boats, although nothing like a dynamic launch into the water, still captured the attention of the town.

Pride still hits me, despite not having worked in the yard for over 15 years.

That period of absence from the yard means I’ve had no involvement in any part of the Astute programme, yet I still feel the pride – I marvel at the technology, the advances in design and how the Astute is significantly more complicated than NASA’s old space-bus.

I feel proud to be Barrovian and as such, a part of the home of submarine building in the UK. Which may go some way to describe the way I’m feeling right now – I’ve just come across The Guardian’s “exclusive” on Astute. By the time this column hits print, it will have no doubt been picked up by the weekend news channels looking for something different to fill their 24/7 schedules that doesn’t include ageing DJs or accusing politicians of something they didn’t do.

The Guardian tells us that the first of class Astute is “Slow, Leaky and Rusty” – now they’ve got their story from somewhere and the MoD won’t confirm the speed, so suspicions get raised. But they never do. It’s all part and parcel of the secretive world of submarines; you don’t go telling anyone how fast they go. It’s always “Faster than 25 knots” or some other loose description. Rusty? Well, it is made of steel and lives in sea water, do the chemistry. Leaky? Now a leaky submarine doesn’t sound ideal I admit, but we could be talking about a pin-holing here of a sub standard part. It’s a first of class of boat, problems occur.

Leave our fantastic boats alone – I really think things are being blown out of proportion here for the sake of a sensational story.

Have your say

So, Darren, shoddy workmanship is OK as long as it's Barrovian shoddy workmanship? Nice!!

Posted by Ned on 21 November 2012 at 16:47

I have to agree Darren, More than likely a Lib Dem politician or sauce trying to put a spanner in the works? After the announcement that Barrow hopefully will build the Trident replacement. Which they as a party are so against. So casting a bad light on new submarines

Posted by Mark on 20 November 2012 at 15:49

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