SHIPBUILDING “is alive and well” in the North-East with a flagship polar research vessel providing a perfect example of the region’s capabilities, an engineering firm boss has told The Northern Echo.

A&P Tyne was today (Monday, August 21) due to oversee the departure of a huge stern section for the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

The business has made the 899-tonne structure for the vessel, playfully known in some quarters as Boaty McBoatface, which will help scientists investigate Arctic and Antarctic conditions from 2019 onwards.

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The deal represents another coup for the firm, based in Hebburn, South Tyneside, which is building sections for the new Astute-class submarines and previously made components for the new HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales warships.

Its RRS David Attenborough project has been carried out alongside Merseyside’s Cammell Laird and David McGinley, group managing director, said it was a sure sign of the strength in the UK’s shipbuilding sector, highlighting its aircraft carrier projects in the process.

He told the Echo: “This has been really high-profile, in terms of capability and skill.

“This part of a vessel is a very complex area and with the skills we have here we are best suited to deliver it.

“It’s a fantastic project to have and it demonstrates how the industry in the UK can work together to produce this type of vessel.

“However, it also demonstrates that shipbuilding on the Tyne is alive and well, there is no question about that.

“We see ourselves at the vanguard and we speak about that with our workforce; they are not just knitting bits of metal together.

“This work gives us another string to our bow and by working with Cammell Laird we are showing that it was not just an aircraft carrier that can be built like this.”

Mr McGinley added the stern section, also known as Block 10, was the result of more than 175,000 man hours, with its 23-metre long creation weighing in excess of 70 London buses.

Referring to the companies’ partnership, John Syvret, chief executive at Cammell Laird and A&P Group, said he was delighted the collaboration has been so successful.

He said: “This is a tremendous showcase for British shipbuilding and engineering.

“While both organisations are fierce competitors, who very much compete where they must, they also, on an arm’s length commercial basis, co-operate where they can.

“What we are doing is providing proof of concept of the strategy outlined in Sir John Parker’s National Shipbuilding Strategy report commissioned by the Government.

“By investing in UK shipyards, and encouraging shipyards to work together, the UK can dramatically ramp up the number of ships it builds, converts and repairs, for the commercial and naval sectors at home and abroad.

“The RRS Sir David Attenborough when built will be one of the most advanced ships of its type in the world.”

A&P’s aircraft carrier work saw it build a section forming part of the flight deck and hangar on HMS Queen Elizabeth and manufacture more than 3,500 tonnes of parts for the HMS Prince of Wales’ flight deck.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth was last week given a rapturous welcome by thousands of well-wishers as she arrived in her home port of Portsmouth.

A&P has another yard in Teesside, based on the outskirts of Middlesbrough, which supports offshore energy sector operators and dredgers.