Councillors suggest there’s hope for future of dry dock

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Penzance Dry Dock may still have a future, councillors have suggested this week.

12th May 2021

By Juliet Lunam

Rumours that Penzance Dry Dock – billed as the oldest in Europe – is to close could be unfounded, according to town councillors.

The dock, which opened in 1834, has been leased by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group since 2009.

In 2015, the group announced a £200,000 investment in the structure to replace its roof and sides with high spec plastisol coated steel sheeting.

At the time, the business employed 15 staff and had won a contract to supply fabrication and construction services to the Penzance Jubilee Pool for its restoration.
But six years on, the company now says an extensive review means the group is re-focussing its attentions to other areas of business.

Penzance Dry Dock owners have made no comment on the announcement and reports have been circulating it will mean the end of the dry dock.

However, Newlyn councillor Dennis Axford said: “The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group has only given up the lease; they don’t own the dock.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s closing. Over the years there have been four or five operators so there’s nothing to stop another coming in.”

The dry dock website says: “Since 1834, the marine engineers at Europe’s oldest dry dock have been known for their outstanding attention to detail, good humour and sound, down-to-earth advice.”

The statement adds: “Perfectly located at the UK’s south western tip, Penzance Dry Dock is fully equipped for all kinds of marine engineering, with an experienced team and skilled contractors on hand.

“They refit, repair and convert vessels, from small boats to passenger ferries and super yachts.”

A spokesperson for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group explained that a decision was made in 2019 to focus on its core operations of transporting passengers and freight by sea and air.

She added: “Following an extensive review over the past 18 months, the company has regretfully decided not to renew its lease of Penzance Dry Dock and will close the operation at the end of May this year.

“This decision affects 11 employees who were informed in February.
“Following a consultation process, around half this number are expected to be retained in other roles within the business.”

Penzance Promenade councillor Dick Cliffe said he understands that the dock owners – Peter de Savary’s group – are advertising the lease.

Cllr Cliffe added: “Back in 1976 the dock employed about 120 people and had a dozen apprentices. It’s been a shadow of its previous self in recent years.
“We’ve got a shortage of marine engineering to support the marine industry so it’s not good to see it empty.”

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