|Headquarters||River Tyne, UK|
|Key people||Jaap Kroese, (Chairman)
Jan Veldhuizen, (Managing Director)
Swan Hunter, formerly known as "Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson", was one of the best known shipbuilding companies in the United Kingdom. Based in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, the company was responsible for some of the greatest ships of the early 20th century — most famously, the RMS Mauretania which held the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, and the RMS Carpathia which rescued the survivors from the RMS Titanic.
As the name suggests, the company represented the combined forces of three powerful shipbuilding families: Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson.
Swan & Hunter was founded by George Burton Hunter who formed a partnership with the widow of Charles Sheridan Swan (who had become the owner of a Wallsend Shipbuilding business established in 1852 by Dr Charles Mitchell) under the name C.S. Swan & Hunter in 1880.
In 1903, it merged with Wigham Richardson (founded by John Wigham Richardson as Neptune Works in 1860), specifically to bid for the prestigious contract to build the RMS Mauretania on behalf of Cunard. Their bid was successful, and the new company, Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd, went on to build what was to become, in its day, the most famous ocean going liner in the world. Also in 1903 the Company took a controlling interest in the Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company, which was an early licensed manufacturer of Parsons turbine engines, which enabled the Mauretania to achieve its great speed. The Mauretania was launched from Wallsend on 20 September 1906 by the Duchess of Roxburghe. It expanded rapidly in the early part of the twentieth century acquiring Barclay Curle in 1912.
In 1966 Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson merged with Smith's Dock Co to form Associated Shipbuilders, later to become Swan Hunter Group. Following the publication of the Geddes Report recommending rationalisation in British shipbuilding, the Company went on to acquire Clelands Shipbuilding Company and John Readhead & Sons in 1967. Meanwhile Swan Hunter inherited both the Naval Yard at High Walker on the River Tyne of Vickers-Armstrongs and the Hebburn Yard of Hawthorn Leslie in 1968. In 1973 further expansion came with the purchase of Palmers Dock at Hebburn from Vickers-Armstrongs.
The Company was privatised again in 1987 but decided to close its Neptune Yard in 1988. It was then forced to call in the receivers when the UK government awarded the contract for HMS Ocean to Kværner in Govan in 1993. The Receiver took steps to break up the business. However the main shipyard in Wallsend was bought out from receivership by Jaap Kroese, a Dutch millionaire. The yard subsequently undertook several ad-hoc ship repair and conversion projects for private-sector customers.
In 2000, however, Swan Hunter was awarded the contract to design and build 2 (Auxiliary) Landing Ship Dock ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary with 2 other ships being built by BAE Systems Naval Ships: the cost of the 2 Swan Hunter ships was to be £210 million including £62 million for lead yard services, with an inservice date of 2004. By July 2006, the costs had risen to £309 million and only one ship had been delivered. As result of this, the second ship RFA Lyme Bay was transferred to BAE Govan for completion.
In November 2006, after the failure to complete RFA Lyme Bay within budget and resulting exclusion from future Royal Navy shipbuilding projects, Jaap Kroese announced that the business was effectively finished and placed the Wallsend Yard's iconic cranes up for sale. He also said that he was actively looking for a buyer for the the land. In April 2007, Swan Hunter's cranes, along with its floating dock and other equipment, were sold to Bharati Shipyards, India's second largest private sector shipbuilder. The entire plant machinery and equipment from Swan Hunter was dismantled and transported to India over six months to be rebuilt at Bharati Shipyards.
In 2008 the company said it was concentrating on ship design with just under 200 people employed.
The Company owned three main yards:
All three were on the North side of River Tyne. At various times Swan Hunter also owned Palmers Hebburn Yard, Hawthorn Leslie Hebburn Yard and Readheads at South Shields which were all on the South side of the River Tyne.