SOUTHAMPTON has today been given a major jobs boost with the arrival of a leading hovercraft maker.

Griffon Hoverwork has struck a deal to move from its Hythe base to the former Vestas wind turbine factory in Woolston.

The move to Merlin Quay secures Griffon’s future in the Solent and could bring dozens more jobs to the city.

The rapidly expanding hovercraft manufacturer has already doubled its workforce in the past nine months to nearly 200 employees, mostly based in Marchwood.

It also has a small workforce at a factory on the Isle of Wight which it will retain.

Daily Echo: For a video of the top stories in today's Daily Echo, click the front page.

Griffon has been searching for larger premises after landing its biggest ever order earlier this year.

It won a £32m contract to supply the Indian government with 12 of its 8000TD hovercraft for use by the coastguard.

The contract guarantees three years of work for Griffon and includes training both in the UK and India.

Production on the order will start at Merlin Quay.

Griffon managing director Adrian Went said: “Once we’re established at Merlin Quay, the company will improve productivity by focussing on production engineering and lean manufacturing.

“We are very pleased to have signed the agreement and look forward to being in the centre of an area that thrives on the shipbuilding industry.”

Southampton City Council leader Royston Smith said: “It’s great news.

This move just underlines our position as the maritime hub of the south coast.

“There is a real feelgood factor developing in Southampton. Developments are coming on and people are wanting to come here.”

Griffon will undergo a phased move from Hythe Marine Park and aims to have production established at Merlin Quay by the end of the year.

The 4.37-acre site off Hazel Road includes four production bays totalling 66,500 square feet, a yard and a wharf with water access.

A new two storey 10,000 sq ft office will also be built ready for staff to move into next year.

Vestas moved off the site last year after it shut down its Southampton operation, alongside a factory on Isle of Wight, with a total loss of more than 400 jobs.

The deal with Merlin Real Estate was handled by the Southampton offices of King Sturge.

Head of industrial agency Matthew Poplett said: “This represents a significant letting for the south coast economy and in particular the city of Southampton.

“Merlin Quay represents an important waterside site and this letting shows the importance of these locations for waterside occupiers.”

Griffon exports its hovercrafts to buyers across the world, including the military.

It has more than 150 hovercraft in service in some 40 countries.