THEY may have moved along the coast but absence makes the heart grow fonder for VT shipbuilders, who elected to name the first vessel from the £50m Portsmouth facility Woolston.

VT bosses let workers choose the name of the barge, which is designed to ship sections of the new Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers to Scotland, where they will be finally assembled.

In tribute to the former River Itchen factory which was long-term home to the company before its switch to Portsmouth earlier this year, workers plumped for Woolston.

The decision ensures the company will have a visible link with the city to complement the hundreds of Southampton staff who are employed there.

The 1,350-tonne steel barge was officially named by Wendy Hussain, wife of Portsmouth Naval Base commander, Commodore Amjad Hussain.

Ship structures will be rolled out by trolley from the state-of-the-art assembly hall and placed on the Woolston barge.

VT Shipbuilding managing director Peter McIntosh said: "The barge has been an ideal project to cut our teeth on at Portsmouth and an excellent lead-in to Type 45 and the CVF (aircraft carrier).

"With so much new technology, we have been able to use the barge to fine-tune the production facilities and the project has demonstrated the significant improvements in productivity that we can obtain at the new factory.

"It also maintains our proud record of delivering to schedule, budget and quality."

VT is building the bow sections, masts and funnels for all six Type 45s so far ordered but the barge will also be available for charter.