People tend to imagine that they don’t build ships on the upper Clyde any more; that was something that stopped after the QEII and Jimmy Reid and all that. But there are almost 4,000 people still working at the two remaining yards, at Govan and Scotstoun, formerly best known, respectively, as Fairfields and Yarrows, which are now operated by BAe Systems.
They build warships mostly, mostly for Britain but also for overseas governments from Brunei to Trinidad. And the six Type 45 Destroyers which have been built over the last ten years for the Royal Navy have pushed the yards to new levels of sophistication. Many of the old crafts are still the same; you still need electricians, welders, sheet-metal workers and plumbers and you still, at the last, need a guy with a pot of grey paint and a paint brush.
But these days you need fewer people to produce more and more cleverly. And of course computers have changed everything; the way you build ships, the things you put in them and the way you figure out how to organise every detail. And there are other changes too.
No longer do you lay down a keel and build a skeleton of ribs to be clad in steel plate. The ship is built indoors, in stages, sometimes even in different places. And then it is put together like a giant piece of Meccano. Some of the timelapse pictures in the video were supplied to us by BAe Systems to show just how it works.
Perhaps the most impressive element visually is the way huge sections can be transported around the yard in Govan before they are assembled.
But pause for thought for a moment at how they build those sections, the astonishing triumph of planning and organisation which takes a ship from a sketch on a bit of paper in an office to a shipyard where 4,000 men and women assemble one million pieces in 50,000 man hours into one ship - and don’t make any mistakes.
- HMS Diamond ready for the Royal Navy
- Assembling a warship on the Clyde like an Airfix model
- Clydebuilt - the type 45 destroyers in numbers