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Maritime conference hears Cammell Laird’s vision to revive British shipbuilding

Cammell Laird project director Tony Graham was invited to address those attending the Society and the Sea conference held at the University of Greenwich.

Mr Graham leads Cammell Laird’s campaign to build five Type 31e warships for the UK Royal Navy worth an estimated £1.25billion. The ship design known as Leander is further being marketed to foreign navies, a move which could generate a huge amount of work and income for the UK shipbuilding industry.

The conference, with the strapline Investinblue – the Values of the Ocean and Coasts for Sustainable Development, was hosted by National Maritime, the network for industries influenced by the sea and waterways, and the Greenwich Maritime Centre.

Mr Graham joined almost 200 leading figures from business and academia from more than 10 countries in addressing the conference. They gave more than 100 presentations across ocean themes of industry, history, conservation, perceptions and how the blue economy is driving economic growth.

His talk, entitled: ‘How investment built a globally competitive shipbuilder’, discussed how Cammell Laird has invested in people, processes and infrastructure to become a world-class business.

With this has come the challenge to grow without developing an unhealthy overhead that would meant it lost its global competitiveness. Mr Graham told the conference that its strong core skills in heavy engineering also allowed the business to adapt to fluctuations in market conditions across shipbuilding, ship repair, oil and gas, renewables and nuclear.

“We understand that we must earn our living, adapt to market conditions and shape our own future,” he said. “This adaptability also allows us to be entrepreneurial so that we can quickly find better answers and new solutions for our customers. We’ve bought back areas of the shipyard over time, investing in our people and our culture, and made an effort to take on more challenging jobs so that we can broaden our skills.”

Watch footage from Tony Graham’s appearance at the Society and the Sea conference

As a result of this ambition and adaptability, Cammell Laird is now able to bid as a prime contractor for the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e Frigate programme. The business has worked with BAE Systems to find a new approach to developing a low-risk but highly capable warship design, the Leander, that is very attractive to international customers.

Mr Graham, who was invited after speaking at a National Maritime event in 2017, said Cammell Laird recognised its success was highly dependent on the wider health of the UK maritime supply chain.

He said: “It is not just companies that compete, but the relative competitiveness of our national supply chain and we see our collaborative behaviours with customers and suppliers as a vital driver of success.

“The UK must continue to invest in its infrastructure and supply chain to ensure our national competitiveness continues its maritime renaissance.”

Mr Graham, who described the whole event as a wonderful celebration of maritime success, was also able to make new business connections at the two-day event.

View highlights of the Society and the Sea conference

Peter Green, chief executive of National Maritime, said the conference had been a huge success, with highlights including an official conference dinner under the iconic Cutty Sark with Paul Rose, expedition leader for National Geographic Pristine Seas Expedition.

He said: “It was great to welcome one of the most famous names in British industry, Cammell Laird, to open our conference session ‘Investing in globally competitive UK shipbuilding and ship repairers’.  Tony’s contribution was well received and engaging. Pitched perfectly, it set a particularly positive tone for the conference. His message was on target and extremely well received by the audience.”