UK’s largest independent ship repairer created

A marine sector specialist with bases in Hampshire has joined forces to create the largest independent ship repairer in Britain.

Burgess Marine, headquartered in Dover and with sites in Poole and Portsmouth’s naval base, has acquired Testbank Ship Repair, with locations at Southampton docks, Portchester, near Portsmouth, and Avonmouth, near Bristol.

The deal will see 120 full-time staff work under the Burgess Marine banner from the six sites, with a combined annual turnover of £20m-plus.

Testbank’s privately-owned shares were purchased outright for an undisclosed figure.

Nick Warren, Managing Director, Burgess Marine, said: “The various work streams of both companies very much complement each other, so it made compelling business logic for family-owned Testbank to join forces with us to create the largest independent ship repairer in the UK by both geographical location and the fact that we are not tied to any one particular yard or facility.

“Whilst this is an acquisition on paper, both parties view this as very much a friendly merger rather than anything else.

“It is one that will benefit our customers across the UK and internationally from economies of scale, as well as providing job security and prospects for our 120 highly skilled and dedicated employees and over 200 sub-contractors, including in and around Southampton and Portsmouth.

“Both companies are financially strong – our operations are lean and efficient, with a combined turnover of £20m.

“This tie-up is very much about maximising existing and future opportunities through a blend of market-leading skills.

“We have never been busier, with a reputation for consistently delivering excellence, tailor-made solutions, innovation engineering and competitiveness to customers, whether in a shipyard, alongside a vessel or at sea with our riding crews who provide emergency in-service support.

“It is important to stress that, with the vast majority of staff, there is little crossover with roles. Where there are any job duplications, we will look at task redeployment elsewhere within the business.

“We are keen to grow our complementary revenues streams, which in turn creates valuable jobs and vital inward investment locally.

“Our employees are very much the backbone of support services in marine refit and repair to commercial customers whose vessels carry millions of civil passengers and military personnel every year, as well as for private owners and operators of superyachts and high-speed craft.

“With Testbank on board, the business is ideally located to support the UK’s largest passenger ports from strategic locations across the South Coast and shipping in general throughout the busy English Channel.”

Testbank has 70 employees at its head office at Western Docks, Southampton and the 1,000-tonne ship repair lift at Trafalgar Wharf, Portchester, on the western fringe of Portsmouth.

From a base in Avonmouth, near Bristol, a number of Testbank staff routinely travel nationally and internationally in support of the businesses.

Jason Coltman, Managing Director, Testbank, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Burgess Marine, becomes Operations Director for Burgess Marine, which was established in the late 1970s.

He said: “Testbank has a proud history tracing back to 1973 and we are excited to be working hand-in-hand with such a strong engineering name and pedigree as Burgess Marine.

“We will be able to draw upon Burgess Marine’s complementary expertise and skill pool, and it is fantastic news for everyone involved.”

Burgess Marine employs five people in Poole, 35 at the naval base in Portsmouth and a further 20 at the head office in Dover.

The 70-plus clients of newly-enlarged Burgess Marine, including a number of strategic partnerships, represent the A to W of names in the commercial marine industry.

They include A&P Falmouth, ferry operators Brittany, Condor, P&O, Red Funnel and Wightlink, BAE Systems, cruise liners group Carnival, UK support services company Serco, Eurotunnel, Rolls Royce, Andrew Weir Shipping and the RNLI.

Burgess Marine also works with operators of fixed and mobile platforms, such as oil rigs and wind farms, along with owners and operators of superyachts and high-speed craft.

The firm provides comprehensive marine repair services, from welding, electrical, engine overhauls, structural fabrication and mechanical support to dive support, dock evaluation reports, vessel surveys and warehousing.

Its repair service is complemented by steel fabrication, pipe and mechanical facilities, dry and wet docks and ship lifts.

Staff at Burgess Marine and Testbank were officially informed of the new business structure in a meeting hosted by Burgess Marine and held on January 25 at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton.

Mr Warren said: “This was very much a chance to warmly introduce the extended family and reassure everyone that, by joining forces, the future with Burgess Marine is a strong one. This is a very exciting time for all of us, at all levels.”

The acquisition was through a combination of funding from HSBC bank and private cash.