THIS is the symbolic moment a piece of steel was cut at Hartlepool fabrication yard to marking the start of work on a multi-million pound contract that will see up to 450 jobs saved and created over three years.
Heerema Hartlepool won the money-spinning deal to build four platforms as part of the Cygnus gas-field project in the southern part of the North Sea.
It means that 100 workers will see their jobs safe for the next three years, with another 350 jobs created.
And the deal also spells good news for young job-hunters in the town as Heerema bosses pledged to take on about 12 apprentices on the contract.
Mayor of Hartlepool Stuart Drummond set the ball rolling by starting machinery to cut the first piece of steel.
And he told the Mail that it was a “proud day for the town”.
He said: “It’s absolutely great news and it shows Hartlepool is very much open for business and we are doing what we have always done and that’s building things.
“Not only will it create and safeguard a number of high-skilled jobs, and create apprenticeships for the young people of the town, it will put the town in the shop window for other investment around renewables and the off-shore industry.”
Greg McKenna, regional director for Centrica, which is operating the Cygnus project along with business partners GDF SUEZ and Bayerngas, said: “It’s great and this will be our third major project with Heerema here in Hartlepool.
“The quality of the workforce is fantastic, so from our perspective, as long as Hartlepool keeps performing, we will keep putting work here.”
Alan Lloyd, yard manager for Heerema, said the number of extra apprentices will take the firm’s total of young workers up to 50, many of whom will now be able to see their “time” out at the site.
“A lot of the apprentices will be from Hartlepool College of Further Education which is great investment in the youth going forward,” he said.
“They will be able to see this project through and in this industry that’s really good.”
Heerema’s Mike Wood said qualified employees were also delighted with the three-year security they would also benefit from.
He said: “The project secures long-term employment for our existing employees and creates new employment here.”
Apprentice welder Ryan Newcombe, 19, from Stranton, Hartlepool, has been working at Heerema for 18 months.
The former Brierton School pupil said: “It’s brilliant news because the apprentices will get kept on for a few years. It’s not very often apprentices get to do their time on one job but this means they’ll be able to do just that.”
And plater Paul Grainger, 54, from Seaton Carew, who has worked at the site on and off since 2000, helped Mayor Drummond set away the machinery at the project start yesterday.
He said: “It’s security of work for three or more years. There’s been lots of pay-offs in our industry with other companies so it’s nice to have some peace of mind and something to look forward to. It’s great news for the town.”
Fellow plater and workmate Barry Williams, also 54, who has worked for the company for the best part of 20 years, added: “It’s a proud moment for the town, especially in this present climate. It’s lifted the morale here big style.”
The Cygnus field is so vast it will eventually create 4,000 jobs countrywide during its construction phase.