Cruise ship's refit to create 300 UK jobs

A cruise ship operator has announced it is creating 300 jobs by placing a £20 million refit order at a UK dry dock. Saga Shipping has chosen Harris Pye Group to refit a 446-passenger vessel at Swansea Dry Dock in South Wales.

Harris Pye chiefs said the contract was awarded to the UK yard in the face of stiff competition from a rival in Germany. It means the city's dry dock facility - which closed to major work ten years ago - will itself undergo a major refit, leaving it better placed to compete for future work. Three months of work to transform the company's newly purchased vessel will get under way almost immediately, a spokesman said.

The vessel in question is currently called the Astoria and was bought by Saga Group - a UK company specialising in services for the over-50s, from financial products to holidays and insurance - at auction in Gibraltar earlier this year. By the time it has undergone a comprehensive refit, it will be transformed into a luxury liner and renamed Saga Pearl II. It will then come into service on March 15, taking passengers from its base in Southampton to see the Northern Lights in Norway..

A spokesman said: "The dry dock facility will now be opened and refurbished, providing some 300 jobs over a three-month period, enabling it to compete for future business.

"The Saga Pearl II refit will be the most comprehensive and expensive in the company's history. As well as the addition of balcony cabins, the show lounge, restaurants, spa and swimming pool will be upgraded. One of the best libraries afloat will be created and a new cinema will be installed.

"New kitchens are also planned to support the gourmet dining experience in the elegant dining rooms. A sports deck is to be created including the addition of a short tennis court. A new, state-of-the-art external coating will be applied to enable the ship to travel with greater ease, reduce fuel consumption and lower her carbon footprint."

Harris Pye will carry out the main engineering work and Saga plans to place other major contracts with UK contractors.

Andrew Goodsell, executive chairman of Saga Group, said: "The multimillion-pound refit will ensure that Saga Pearl II is splendid throughout and with 446 passengers she will have an intimate atmosphere and the quality of service our passengers have come to expect.

"I am delighted that we are able to support a British yard and that in doing so we will help with the regeneration of the Swansea docks."

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