SHIPBUILDING has returned to the Mersey today with the announcement that work on a £44million project to construct the flight deck for the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier will take place at Cammell Laird.

The company was awarded the contract to build two huge sections of the The Queen Elizabeth by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance late last year. Since then, work has been underway at the facility to accommodate the manufacture of these huge steel structures.

The yard is one of six across the country that will work on the 65,000 tonne ship.

Work is already underway at BAE Systems in Glasgow and Portsmouth, at Babcock’s facilities in Appledore, North Devon and Rosyth in Fife as well as A&P Tyne in Hebburn on Tyneside.

Cammell Laird's managing director, Linton Roberts, said: "We are extremely proud to be involved in the building of this great national flagship.

"Not only does this project allow us to support the national effort, it also underlines the growing reputation and capability of Cammell Laird and our skilled workforce."

The work was unveiled by Gerald Howarth, minister for international security strategy, during a ceremony at the yard this morning, in which the first sheet of steel that will be used in the project was unveiled.

In a speech, Mr Howarth also paid tribute to Cammell Laird's proud shipbuilding history.

Mr Howarth told the Globe afterwards: "It's a great occasion. Cammell Laird is the last of the six shipyards that will be contributing to the aircraft carrier programme and a vital part of the flightdeck will be built in Birkenhead.

"I would like to thank the staff who have successfully won the bid to build this block of the aircraft carrier. It is a major project.

"It is the largest warship ever built in the United Kingdom and the largest warship that we've ever put to sea.

"It's 65,000 tonnes and taller than Nelson's Column, so it really is a very substantial bit of kit.

"About 1500 local jobs are being sustained in producing the 75,000-tonnes of steelwork. In addition there are 72 apprentices at work here, so those essential shipbuilding skills are being generated at Cammell Laird and I think that’s very important."

Also present at the launch were Wirral-born Rear Admiral Philip Jones, assistant Chief of the Naval Staff and more than 100 members of Laird’s workforce, including several apprentices who will be learning their trade while working on the Royal Navy's future flagship.

Rear Admiral Jones, who was born in Bebington and whose father worked at Cammell Lairds for almost 40 years, told the Globe: "I remember really well, growing up, Cammell Laird being a very large yard building a lot of warships and merchant ships and being a huge part of the fabric of Birkenhead and the whole of the maritime heritage of Merseyside.

So to be back seeing that come back to Laird's as part of warship building is really special.

"Queen Elizabeth will be the biggest ship the Royal Navy's ever had and that size is merely a reflection of the flexibilty and agility we need in a a ship like that.

"You won't see the whole ship, because here at Cammell Laird we don't build ships like that anymore, we build them in blocks.

"But each of these blocks, put together, will be bigger than the HMS Campbeltown, the last major service ship Cammell Laird built in the late ‘80s. We are talking substantial size.

"I'm very proud that it's going to be built in my home town. I'm not quite old enough to remember the two previous Ark Royals being built here, in the ‘40s and early ‘50s, but certainly the message of what those two carriers meant for the Royal Navy and Cammell Laird resonated for a long time after they left the yard."

Rear admiral Jones, whose mother attended the ceremony, continued: "To be back in the game of contributing to building aircraft carriers is a very special moment for me and a very big day for the yard.

”My mother was very proud to be here, because as the wife of a Cammell Laird employee for nearly 40 years this yard was in her bloodstream, even if she wasn’t in the yard herself very much. I was really pleased that she could join me today in recognition of the role her husband played in the yard for such a long time."

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance is a team formed from Babcock, BAE Systems, Thales UK and the Ministry Of Defence, which acts as both partner and client. It is responsible for delivering the Queen Elizabeth Class ships to time and cost.