The Wallsend Shipyard was the first in the world to construct tankers of over 250,000 tons on a slipway. The first of these VLCC's was launched in May 1969. The association of this yard with the Royal Navy commenced with the destroyer ‘Hope’ in 1909 and since then over 100 warships were built. Production also included the aircraft carriers ‘Illustrious’ and ‘Ark Royal’. One of the most up-to-date steel working facilities in the shipbilding world at the time was situated at the Wallsend Shipyard. Opened in December 1971 it produced flat stiffened panels to a maximum weight of 100 tons for use in all Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Shipyards.
The centralised Joinery Workshop at Wallsend Shipyard produced all panel and specialist furnishing for all the yards. Although construction of ships at Walker has since ceased, it was developed as an outfitting centre for the other new building yards. The Centralised Blacksmiths Production Facilities and the Central Accounts Department for Swan Hunter Shipbuilders at that time were based at Walker. The newly formed Tyne Regional Computing Centre, that provided computer facilities to Swan Hunter Shipbuilders and other shipbuilders in the region, was located at Walker Shipyard.
After de-nationalisation and some difficult trading conditions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s many of the facilities of the Group were sold or closed down. In 1994 the Wallsend Yard of Swan Hunter was put into the hands of the receiver. In 1995 Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Ltd was established by Mr Jaap Kroese who then acquired the shipyard which then diversified into offshore oil & gas construction as well as naval shipbuilding.
For the next decade under his stewardship the company was successful in obtaining both offshore vessel conversion work, including the conversion of a bulk carrier into the worlds largest pipelaying vessel the ‘Solitaire’ as well as new buildings for the Royal Navy in the form of the LSDA’s ‘Largs Bay’ and ‘Lyme Bay’. However, with no fresh orders after 2007 and severe competition from Far East shipyards, the yard construction facilities were eventually closed down and the majority of the land sold the North Tyneside Council and One NorthEast in 2009. However, Swan Hunter still continues to operate but now only in the design and engineering field, providing design and management support to shipyards and ship owners via the engineering group that still occupies the management offices on the site.