International metals and industrial entrepreneur Sanjeev Gupta today (12th October) pledged to rebuild Hartlepool’s large diameter pipe mills into a world force and replace lost jobs at the town’s pivotal steel plant.
During a visit to formally inaugurate the two mills, which his Liberty House group bought in August, he promised to create new jobs and steadily restore production levels which were badly hit during last year’s steel crisis.
Liberty, part of the global GFG Alliance, intends to increase output from the Hartlepool pipe mills fourfold to 80,000 tonnes next year, adding extra shifts and generating around 100 new jobs as order books fill up again.
Longer-term, the group wants to get the mills, whose combined capacity is over 300,000 tonnes a year, back to full production.
The plant, that includes the 42-inch and 84-inch longitudinal submerged arc welded (LSAW) mills previously owned by Tata Steel UK, will in future be known as Liberty Steel Hartlepool, part of Liberty’s new pipes division.
Liberty’s acquisition of the mills saved 140 jobs and provided the basis to regain the plant’s former share of international markets, mainly in the oil and gas industry.
Speaking at today’s formal inauguration in front of industry guests and local representatives, Mr Gupta, who is executive chairman of the GFG Alliance said: “The North East has a great steel tradition and this business at Hartlepool has a high-calibre workforce whose skills will enable it to recapture markets across the globe. The capacity to manufacture world-class steel pipe will play a hugely important part in the development of our international business so we are very pleased to welcome the team at Hartlepool into the Liberty group.”
James Annal, chief executive of Liberty Pipes Division said he was very optimistic about the future of the plant: “We are very encouraged by the number of inquiries we’re getting from previous customers and prospective new customers regarding major projects in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa. We’ve already begun taking new orders for both standard and project-specific pipe and there will be much more to follow.”
He said that among those recruited for the new jobs over the coming months will be several apprentices who will form the basis of a new generation of skilled steelworkers at Hartlepool.
Mr Annal explained that he and his management team are currently developing a five-year plan to take the Hartlepool business forward.
The executive chairman was joined today on a tour of the plant by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen to meet the teams who kept the plant going through its most difficult period. Mr Houchen said: “We’re very proud of our area’s long and distinguished steel heritage and I’m very pleased and relieved that these jobs and skills are being protected for the future. Liberty’s arrival has been a great boost for the area’s economy and we’re looking forward to more opportunities for local people and local businesses as a result of their investment.”
Today Sanjeev Gupta also visited Liberty’s 145-worker merchant bar plant at Scunthorpe which the Group bought in July just before it acquired the Hartlepool pipe mills. The plant which includes two fully-automated rolling mills is Britain’s largest producer of merchant bar, a type of steel used extensively in the construction, energy, infrastructure, oil & gas, shipbuilding and transport industries.
The acquisition will complement Liberty’s already substantial network of steel plants in the UK and enable the company to supply the market with an extensive range of steel products. Liberty aims to expand production at the plant over the coming years.
Over the past two years, the GFG Alliance has acquired numerous metals, engineering and energy assets across the UK and overseas and now has a global workforce in excess of 11,000 people.