As part of a wider South West Martime tour, the Defence Secretary and Shipbuilding Tsar Ben Wallace visited the Harland & Wolff (Appledore) yard and met representatives from Harland & Wolff, including Group CEO, John Wood, General Manager – Appledore, Tom Hart, Director of Defence & Government Vessels, Mark Lawther and Head of Marketing & Communications, Seena Shah.

During the visit he discussed how closer working between government and British industry can help the shipbuilding sector maximise its potential, boost UK shipbuilding and level up communities.

During the visit, the Shipbuilding Tsar met five Harland & Wolff apprentices, who shared their reasons for joining shipbuilding and their experiences at Harland & Wolff.

His visit follows the refreshed National Shipbuilding Strategy, published in March, which set out more than £4 billion of government investment for the shipbuilding sector over the next three years, with a 30-year pipeline of more than 150 naval and commercial vessels.

The shipbuilding industry is supporting around 42,600 jobs across the country, and the South-West region is the second most valuable in the UK, employing more than 19,000 people. Harland & Wolff is projected to support 1,300 jobs across the South West in 2023, with 600 jobs being supported in Torridge alone.

Defence Secretary and Shipbuilding Tsar, Ben Wallace, said:

“What I have seen in the south-west is a vibrant, thriving hub of global shipbuilding where cutting-edge innovation and skilled craftsmanship is being supported by more than four billion pounds worth of government-wide investment in the sector.

“Meeting with young apprentices across these yards, where they are leading in highly skilled and varied roles has been hugely encouraging.”

Harland & Wolff Group CEO, John Wood said:

“It has been almost two years since the Appledore shipyard joined the Harland and Wolff group, which now not only boasts the UK’s largest drydocks in Belfast but also the largest undercover dry dock in Appledore. It was great to show the Shipbuilding Tsar around what is now a busy and thriving shipyard, as work on the fabrication of a steel pontoon for the RNLI and vessel maintenance works continue.

“By spreading our focus across five distinct markets, we will continue to grow the opportunities and workforce here in Appledore and across the Harland & Wolff Group. Apprentices are essential to realising our growth ambitions. Applications for our current apprenticeship programme are open, as we look to take on around 150 apprentices in the business.”