A Wallsend engineering firm that was forced to slash its workforce from 500 to six during hard times has secured a major offshore contract which has created more than 20 new jobs.
Barrier Group’s six-month project with Wallsend-based OGN Group is a shot in the arm for the international coatings specialist, which is based in Willington Quay, North Tyneside, and employs 250 people at sites across the UK and abroad.
The firm, which was established in 1975, will carry out the specialist coating work, scaffolding, insulation and architectural services needed on the EnQuest Producer, a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel at OGN’s Hadrian Yard site.
Robert Bowles, group chairman of Barrier, said the contract was good news because the firm had faced hard times over the years.
He said: “When I look back to the 90s, we had over 500 working on the north bank, but when the yards closed through lack of work back in around 2000, it was quite a blow for us. We got down to six guys painting the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which was the only job we had.”
Bowles added that OGN’s support had helped the firm grow back to around 200 staff. The ambition now was to expand the workforce to over 500 again.
“We’ve completed the Apache project we were working on in the North Sea and that was fabulous for us,” he said.
“We have got so many world-beating engineering companies within a 20-mile radius of Wallsend. They just don’t get the recognition they should and too much work is being taken overseas, but I think what sets us apart in the North East is the skills.”
Bowles would ideally like to see OGN become a bigger focus for work in the North East. However he believes the oil companies have “forgotten” about the region and how good its skills base is.
“We can do it if we’re given the chance,” he said.
“We need to reinvent ourselves and make the oil industry realise the North East is not just good enough, but we’re actually world-beaters.”
George Rafferty, chief executive of NOF Energy, added: “The North East is starting to see the benefits of the investments being made in the North Sea with projects like the EnQuest Producer and OGN’s latest contract to produce a new gas platform module.
“These projects benefit the whole region as they support the economy, create jobs and deliver opportunities for the wider supply chain.”