Monday, 18 May 2020

Why Trident shipyard is key to Covid19 crisis in Barrow

Letter sent to the Daily Mail on 17 May:
Your feature on the very high level of Covid19 instances in Barrow-in-Furness in south Cumbria asking “could this be Britain’s first pariah town?” (Daily Mail on Saturday, 16 May 2020  significantly underplays the fact that this  peninsular town is dominated by contains the Trident nuclear submarine  shipyard, the biggest of its kind in Europe, with BAE Systems Maritime - Submarines' 25,000m² Devonshire Dock Hall indoor shipbuilding complex.

The town has a proud near 150 year legacy of shipyards, with the Barrow Ship Building Company being founded in 1871.

BAE Systems Maritime Barrow employs just over 6,000 jobs out of a local population of around 70,000. This shipyard was kept open during the entire time of the coronacrisis, as ministers identified it as a key national  infrastructure production centre.

While BAE systems boasts of the support work it has done in supporting  the “brave NHS heroes” through PPE donations and its role in the “VentilatorChallengeUK”  (,we hear less about how the coronavirus has been incubated and spread within the  busy shipyard with workers engaged in tricky fabrication - sometimes cheek-to-jowl  - inside the giant  nuclear submarine hull being fitted out by electricians, metal workers and  other workforce specialists. BAE systems denied on 15 May that their operations at the  Devonshire Dock had anything to do with elevated levels of Covid19 in Barrow.

 But just a few days earlier, the authoritative House of Commons Public Accounts Committee reported (as covered by the Mail in a story headlined “MPs’ nuclear blast”, on 13 May) that incompetence by BAE management at Barrow had escalated the Trident project cost by £1,300,000,000,000 ( £1.34 billion) asserting strongly that BAE had “ utterly failed to learn from mistakes over the  decades ..[and had ]  spectacularly repeated the same mistakes.” The MOD conceded the bill to taxpayers bill could escalate even more. This is not a management I would confidently trust to control Covid19 in my home town when they have lamentably failed to control their budgets.

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