The new Fleet Solid Support ships that are needed to service the UK’s £6.3 billion Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will go out to full international tender on the 30th April 2018.

GMB research shows that up to 6,700 jobs could be created or secured in the UK if the order went to a domestic shipbuilder – including 1,800 much needed shipyard jobs. A further 4,700 jobs could be secured in the wider supply chain – including in the steel industry.

The union estimates that £285 million would also be returned to the taxpayer through income tax, national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments.

Exclusive Survation polling, commissioned by GMB, found that 74 per cent of people want the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships built in the UK. GMB maintains that RFA ships are military vessels that are crucial to the UK’s defence capabilities.

The Government’s current policy is to build all Royal Navy warships in the UK but orders for RFA ships are put out to international tender. Shipbuilding companies from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea and Spain attended a recent Ministry of Defence industry day on the Fleet Solid Support order according to documents obtained by GMB under the Freedom of Information Act.

Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer for Shipbuilding, said:

“The Government looks set to repeat the blue passports fiasco by putting another order of national significance out to tender abroad. Ministers are not bound by normal EU rules on competitive tendering when it comes to military ships. There really can be no excuse for sending our shipbuilding contracts overseas.

We have a highly skilled shipbuilding workforce in the UK that is more than capable of making these ships at a fair market price. We face being sold down the river if the work goes to artificially subsidised international competitor shipyards instead. At a time when global tensions are rising, the Government should use this order to ‘buy for Britain’ and rebuild our defence shipbuilding manufacturing capabilities.

Shipbuilding workers are disillusioned by orders flowing overseas while highly skilled jobs at UK shipyards are being cut. It would be a gross betrayal of the spirit of the ‘red, white and blue Brexit’ that Theresa May promised if this crucial contract is awarded outside of the UK and jobs here are lost as a result.”

Reacting to this news earlier in the week, the First Minister of Scotland stated that the international tendering for auxiliary vessel contracts is a betrayal for the Clyde, despite the yards having no interest in them, having never been promised them and the fact the vessels couldn’t physically fit on the slipway.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, she said:

“That work should be on the Clyde, I argue that that work was promised to the Clyde and should definitely go to the Clyde. We should be very clear. What we are now seeing develop around that work and the future of the shipyards is nothing short of a blatant betrayal of Scottish shipyards. During the referendum, promises were made to those shipyards by the Tories, and indeed, by all the unionist parties—the shipyards were told of promises of work for years to come. The unionist parties specifically said that, if Scotland became independent, it would not be able to secure that work for the Clyde, because contracts could not go to “foreign countries. It is an absolute betrayal and I hope that we will hear all parties across the parliament stand up for shipbuilding on the Clyde.”

Sturgeon said the move was an “absolute betrayal” in light of promises made in the run-up to 2014’s independence vote. In fact, what was “promised” before the referendum was work on complex warships, like frigates and destroyers. There are three key problems with this:

    • The Clyde is at capacity with the River class and Type 26 Frigate builds and has no intention of bidding for this work.
    • The 40,000 tonne support vessels wouldn’t physically fit on the slip alongside the Type 26 Frigate builds.
    • The only vessels “promised” were warships, such as frigates and destroyers.

The unions are advocating that the build stay in the UK, not that it be done on the Clyde and this is something we agree with. There are strong arguments to build these ships in the UK.

Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said:

“The Royal Fleet Auxiliary contracts are the key to unlocking the country’s massive shipbuilding potential. But Ministers refusal to put the UK’s interests first will mean that instead of a massive programme of shared economic and employment re-distribution, our firms will be competing against each other for slivers of complex warship work. It beggars belief that the Government wants to give this golden opportunity away to foreign competitors when working class communities up and down the country are crying out for decent work.”


  1. Have any firm designs actually been submitted yet that we can look at or have firms only really registered interest thus far?

    • shipbuilders demand? tell them if they had the ability to operate in the now, and not just hankering for the past, they might have got the slow, and poorly run,uncompetitive.

  2. If they know it is open internationally, no UK yard will bother, as they can’t compete on price.
    But, by making this a military order and building here, the government could help one yard to build its workforce and skills base to the point where it could become internationally competitive again. The French, the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish would all never build these outside their own yards. Why do we?

    • Leo to answer your question it is because our Government is stupid and is driven by the lowest price. No other similar nation to the UK takes the same approach despite what others may say on here. We have just built the two largest warships ever outside the USA and have now been laying off shipbuilder’s but according to some we have no capacity.
      We are nuts.

      • Its not just the government the general publis do not support UK industries. The exact same arguement goes for everything we buy, if we all bought UK cars, food etc where we can then tax reciepts would be higher and therefore 2% of the budget on defence would equate to a better paid and equiped military

          • Aston Martin are owned by foreigners, so are all “British” car makers. France, Germany and Italy’s car makers are not all owned by foreigners by the way, practically none are in fact.

        • With a handle like ‘Rapid Bummer’ I think you might be the best candidate to answer your own question about paedophiles in the BBC – Rapid Bummer. Meanwhile, start by reading about a certain Jimmy Savile. After that, do a little research. You’ll find lots of people interest in bottoms then.

          • When I joined this group I thought it was called the U.K. Defence Journal. Yet I see posts about Paedophiles, why are members posting about this? It has no place in the group.

        • There are cars built in UK, Nissan, Honda, Jags, Mini etc as per the article this is supporting UK jobs and the tax that UK employees pay and VAT when they spend goes back to the Government. I’m not defending the UK government buying overseas just pointing out we all do it, we look for the best product for the money.

      • most contracts are a foregone conclusion, if BAE are in the bidding, they get to build on the scandalous monopoly this country has given them.

  3. To be honest i have to agree that they should be constructed here
    I think it would be a betrayal of our shipbuilders
    I understand why the tankers went overseas as there was a lot going on regarding the carriers
    As for the Clyde well thats another matter All i will say is dont be greedy

    • We closed down Portsmouth ship yards at the same time as agreeing to build type 26s in Scottish ship yards at the same time as getting RFAs built in Korea?

      Where is the love for made-in-Britain and supporting local British engineering, R & D, jobs, local dependant companies and putting money into businesses that pay PAYE back into the local tax coffers?

      Capacity is relative to the Portsmouth ship yards that were closed down

  4. Uk build. End of. I’m fed up of our useless tosses politicians not supporting our industries and seeing the knock on effect on the supporting communities. What is there game?

    • To build them in the UK would require a UK shipbuilder to submit a tender… Something that did not happen with the last support ships. If no UK yard wants to build them then what is the Government supposed to do?

  5. UK industry cannot have a blank cheque. There would have to be a mechanism to make industry internationally competitive otherwise once the order is fufilled the yard will go under as it cannot win more orders. Whilst the churn Tax money good for the economy winning large foreign orders is even better.

    I would support a competitive tender process where a UK yard has to be within 20% of the lowest bidder for the entire contract. The last ship built would need to be delivered at or under the cost of the foreign bid otherwise there are penalties. This forces the yard to invest and unions to embrace productivity improvements over the contract life. By the end of the contract they have the capabilty to compete internationally and future MoD contracts will be better value for the tax payer.

    • At last common sense the MOD can’t keep giving our defence industry a blank cheque for ships and aircraft. £1bn for a destroyer or frigate and nobody knows how much each Typhoon has cost us. Lets wake up British industry and stop sleeping on a matress of tax payers money.

      • In fairness Martin, we are not doing much worse than any other advanced country building these assets.

        the £1bn destroyers are almost certainly that price due to government indecision and lets not forget that the carriers are at least £1bn more due to the govt of the times decision to slow work down.

        I dont think it is always the companies fault – the MOD and Govt are active and incompetent players in this.

        • But is that a reason not to change, just because others do it. I agree the Government and MOD do struggle to write contract that holds companies to account. The press is also a problem, look at the articles around these ships over the last few days, it could essentially tie the Governments hands to build in the UK irrespective of cost and not force the yards to make any improvements. If you want to negotiate a good deal then the whoever is short listed need to know you can and will go elsewhere, that’s the basics of any contract negotiation.

          • NAO can measure estimate the cost of shipbuilds and in this digital modelling world, it is easier. Sir John wants to invest in yards that wins these contract as a condition too. Yards can model investment and production improvement with this investment. You cannot hide as a shipbuilder, but you should embrace the new tech asit will aid our performance. Just giving to a subsidised foreign yard with no account of tax back in huge forms is short-sighted. The answer is not to buy foreign! It’s not emotion, but fact. This eu empire has caused this. The warship building by BAE should be focussed on more. 8 year for the first type 26. OK, first of the class, but BAE clearly has no interest in having the most efficient building facilities if the ship is going to take 8 years to complete. Come on! Warships building like this has never created real innovation in planning and efficient production. Hence, the state of our yards at the moment.

        • Yes started at 2.6 for two, then 3.2. Re-design from big to little then back to big cost 200 million, then a 2 year delay which was almost 2 billion extra. The type 45s were just over 600 million without missles. Is our UK government itself value for the taxpayer? Is 6 billion pounds for patching up the Westminster parliament value for the taxpayer?

  6. I started in shipyards in the mid 70s, not meaning to sound cynical:

    If Labour gain power under Corbyn, I’ve a feeling Union disputes will rise in certain yards.
    The more vessels under Construction, the more influence Unions wield. There are still some remnants of trouble makers, albeit, very small.

    Having said that, I would like to see British yards build the RFA vessels, and become as great as they were before 70s militant actions decimated UK industry.

    • This is a golden opportunity. These should be built in either Rosyth or Cammel Lairds, with the other one getting the type 31s. With the facilities and experience from building these we will be able to start bidding for cruise ships like France, Germany and Italy do.

    • The current Labour party does not understand the word productivity. The leadership is far too idealistic to shape modern industry. Just look at some of the policies being put forward like a Tax on robots, how is that going to drive the productivity improvements needed to be internationally competive.

      fwiw I don’t think the tories have a cooking clue either.

      Political rant over 🙂

  7. I believe that the NSS will fail if these ships are not built in the UK.

    We need to ensure the SSS are far more capable than previous designs would indicate and if we came up with an improve KArel Doorman JLSS and committed to 8 this would resolve a number of issues within the RFA/RN as we could potentially create a joint logistics and amphibious ship that I believe many countries would be very interested in.

    Once we get to 8 units then cost is critical and £300m each is the benchmark.

    All a bit of a stretch I know – but unless we build our own naval vessels in this country, have a plan to build innovative platforms that reduces the complexity in the current fleet then unfortunately we are just repeating the same issues of the last 30 years that have seen this proud and critical industry to the UK.

    If car plants such as Nissan can be subsidised by the British taxpayer why cant shipbuilding. Give them an order book from which they can develop.

    • 8 Karel Doormans? That would replace most of the RFA fleet!

      Sorry not a priority with escort numbers so low.

    • Definitely. We have to make it a rule that fighting ships AND R.F.A. are built here, then we will be able to support a decent sized shipbuilding industry. This is what other countries do.

    • Adding amphibious capabilities reduces hold space for stores and ammunition. Compact mission bays could be a very good addition particularly with a good flight deck/hangar facilities and a staffed ops room.
      I can’t see a fleet SSS being effective if it has a dock. It would end up a jack of all trades like Fort Victoria but worse off.

      • The specs of the Karen doorman are very impressive and don’t forget we have the tides as well

        I think with a little bit of thought we can have something that gives us a truly capable mission platform

        The other thing that tends to happen in uk is as a result of the messing about with requirements and design we actually end up compromising the ship as we have massive cost over runs before the build even starts.

        The KD class could be a game changer for the RN as it stands and with a little alteration to our operating model. Could be simply amazing

  8. The tender should be written to support the ship building strategy. Preferential clauses for a consortium block build approach across different UK yards.

    • Building blocks hundreds of miles apart with the associated transport costs will not make British shipbuilding efficient or cost effective. None of the big shipbuilding countries do it this way. We have to make British shipbuilding as competitive as possible. We should make as much as possible at either Rosyth or Cammel Lairds, with only a few blocks built elsewhere.

      In the long run we should build the frigate factory on the Clyde and build destroyers, frigates, patrol ships, mine countermeasure ships, etc. here. And for the big stuff, aircraft carriers, tankers, solid supply ships, amphibious etc. we should invest in Rosyth, the Mersey or the Tyne (preferably the Mersey or the Tyne, I love the Scots, but they can’t have everything and they would be getting the frigate factory on the Clyde so couldn’t complain). We should build a large enclosed dockhall, where we can build large ships in one location, regardless of the weather. We could also bid for cruise ships using this shipyard.

      • Question?
        Everyone always on about Rosyth but please correct me if im wrong but i dont think they build ships there
        I know the carriers where put together there but all the bits for it where built elsewhere and brought to Rosyth on barges for assembly
        Like i said please correct me if im wrong

        • (Chris H) Barry – Exactly so. And before the carriers Rosyth was a repair yard with no gantry crane at all. Unlike Belfast (just one example) which has built a huge list of large ships and especially carriers. And had two very capable gantry cranes.

          Rosyth was such a brilliant choice by its then Constituency MP the Prime Minister Gordon Brown that we had to pay some £80 Mn to ‘refurbish’ the dock, then buy a crane from China that is now for sale on eBay and each ship had to have a folding mast costing tens of thousands of pounds.

          As any logistician would have told him Rosyth is on the wrong side of the country to build modular or large ships. The only sizable shipyard on the East Coast is Tyneside the rest (Clyde, Merseyside, Appledore and Belfast) are all on the Western side. Even Portsmouth was closer to Belfast than Rosyth

          With Type 26 on the Clyde Type 31 should go to Merseyside and these RFA ships should be built in Belfast with extra modules built in Appledore. Tyneside is capable of supplying smaller, easily transported assemblies to all 3 projects as it proved for the carriers.

          THAT is what I call a ‘National Shipbuilding Strategy’.

          Rosyth without that crane is just another repair yard and remains in the wrong place. Let them recycle those nuclear subs that are festering in their inner harbour

    • Julian, I will accept 4 Nimrod but there would have to be room for at least 6 Concorde V/STOL and 4x A380s again with V/STOL capability.

  9. That last comment was supposed to be under Lusty’s comment.

    Serious comment though. I just want to see the damn design, or at least know if one even exists right now. These are important additions/replacements to the RFA/RN and the specs matter.

    • I was thinking more of a modern Navalised Vulcan bomber. But we can only dream.

      But I do agree, seeing a more detailed design spec would be wonderful.

      But let us not forget, only a few years ago we had four solid support ships. With one of the more modern ships scrapped, that took us to three – and a commitment to replace these three like-for-like still highlights diminished hull numbers.

      • It does mean diminished hull numbers but, and without design specs we’re guessing here, at maybe 40,000t each HMG would no doubt claim growth on the basis of tonnage. It’s becoming a well-worn argument.

        Do RFA ships, with fewer and less complex systems than high-end RN vessels, have better availability rates? If not then the rule of 3 would, however high the tonnage, give us one SSS for the CBG and not much else.

        • Not 100% sure on availability, but out of the current SSS fleet, only one is on operations, her sister ship is laid up, and Fort Victoria is in refit pending modifications to operate with the carriers. Of the tankers, two are deployed, and one is laid up. Having said that, all three Bays are deployed.

          And I would assume the CBG would consist of an FFT and SSS, which doesn’t leave much room for deploying an SSS in support of allied operations – as Fort Rosalie currently is. One would assume that a Tide Class vessel would be suitable for this, however.

          Whichever way you slice it, like the RN, the RFA is spread too thin.

  10. So basically speaking it costs exactly the same to place a £1 billion ship order in the UK, compared to £715 million in the likes of South Korea.

    Or the other way around, to buy the ships in the UK for £1.4 billion rather than £1 billion abroad.

    I ignore the totally unneccesary divisive diversion about the Clyde and Sturgeon, the FM of Scotland, as it has absolutely no relevance to the strong case GMB the union are making for the economic multiplier of building UK ships – in the UK. Perhaps some more unity from those seeking to keep the UK together, would avoid weakening the case for UK shipbuilders as a whole.

    • The problem with these figures is that there needs to be some way to at least approximately reflect them in defence budgets. Let’s say for instance that in theory the net costs of overseas construction (OS) vs U.K. construction are the same, i.e. to place the order in the U.K. is £1bn contract cost but with £285 back in taxes etc and OS is £715m contract cost with zero back. The fact is that it’s £1bn spent from the defence budget if they build in the U.K. and £715m if they build OS with £285m saved to spend on other stuff in the OS scenario. In the U.K. scenario the £285m coming back goes into general U.K. tax receipts and reductions in welfare spending and not to the MoD. All the MoD budget gets to see from it is the 2% of the £1bn addition to GDP which is £20m extra.

      All figures grossly simplified for illustration and ignore the fact that even if built OS some U.K. activity and GDP increase would be created but even so, unless that accounting issue is tackled in some way, even if the union’s arguments were to keep the build in the U.K. it would still likely be at the expense of increased cost for the defence budget. Maybe the Treasury should provide a subsidy to the MoD for building in the U.K. equivalent to what is calculated to be returned to the U.K. tax and welfare coffers via incremental tax receipts and welfare savings.

      I agree strongly with your last comment about less divisiveness and more unity needed.

    • Morning dadsarmy, I fear most peoples wishes to build these ships in the UK are doomed!

      I had really hoped that Gavin Williamson would have a different approach to the laissez faire politics of the past but alas it seems not.

      There is the possibility of truly resurrecting ship building in the UK around RN & RFA long term NSS but this race to the bottom on thin gruel is good for nothing.

      As with so much the gov is doing with the RN I remain deeply disappointed. It’s the hope that kills.

    • Actually Dads Army it costs a lot less because no one factors in the social costs of people not working.

      Communities that work tend to be healthier communities and the govt can decide to fund work or social care and costs.

      Unemployment and other benefits
      Increased Cost of policing crime in low employment areas
      Increased cost of health and social care provision.

      The other thing is that these jobs give people hope instead of having generations seeing their city slowly deteriorate into one large shopping centre.

      I am a big fan of providing work and giving people respect, rather than giving them money and nothing else.

      For those that may dispute the above – take a look at what happened when the shipyards, mines and steel factories closed in the 80’s, you could argue we are still recovering in large parts of the country. People want to work, The military need kit, seems to me this can be a win/win.

  11. Have the Tory ‘s forgot about their national shipbuilding stratergy that they had ,saying about sharing the work amongst all our yards or is it just Tory waffle.Also why should it just go to the Clyde .

  12. Could this hull design be used to upgrade amphib capability? I mean it’s roughly the same shape as Bulwark and Albion, couldn’t be too much harder to add a well deck and lengthen the flight deck

    • If a decision has been taken to retain the LPDs for a significant period then that would enable you to simplify the design of the SSS ships and make them to commercial standards. Without a well deck they more clearly become a ‘commodity’ item which you buy on price. The LPDs get replaced by LHDs at some future point and in the meantime we bumble along with QE as an LPH.

  13. Not often I agree with a Trade Union but on this they are 100% spot on. Again forgive my repeating what I have said before and is ‘the bleeding obvious’ but the Whitehall bean counters need to stop their focus on ‘Price’ and look at the ‘Nett Cost’ to the UK. Exactly as the GMB have now said.

    Sturgeon needs to STFU as well because the more she chimes in the more those in Westminster will do the opposite and make sure NOTHING is built here.

    Oh and to those chuntering on about ‘subsidy’ etc to employ your own people rather than a bunch of Koreans is an investment, almost a duty of care, and rebuilds a resource we lost years ago. The carriers proved we can do big ships, do them well and to Budget (once started) so build these damn ships HERE and spread the UK Taxpayer’s money back with the UK Taxpayer.

    Rocket science it isn’t.

    • “Sturgeon needs to STFU as well because the more she chimes in the more those in Westminster will do the opposite and make sure NOTHING is built here.”

      A classic example of a divisive comment making it difficult for 47% of the people in Scotland, the minority Government in Scotland, and the 3rd largest political party in Westminster to agree with, the rest of which all the people in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament as a whole, and all the SNP MPs would probably agree with in common cause.

      • (Chris H) dadsarmy – So you support a First Minister who peddles blatant lies and misleads her country, followers and anyone daft enough to listen to her? These ships were NEVER promised to anyone and certainly not ‘to the Clyde’. Everyone except the SNP Barmy Army led by Sturgeon KNOWS this.

        We need these ships built in the UK (or maybe you disagree with this unless they are built on Scotland) and Sturgeons politicking and lying does not help this one jot. Because as I said she is so despised outside Scotland if she demands something then you can bet those in power will decide the opposite. Even if that entails cutting noses to spite faces.

        A period of silence from your Chief Executive of not a lot would be appreciated. Preferably permanently. (By which I mean her no harm just to avoid the wrath of the Jocks ..)

        • Chris H, As a political force, Scottish nationalism is going to be around for a long time; you’re just going to have to get used to it. (As indeed, many of us on these islands are having to adjust to English nationalism, and the controversial outcomes of Brexit).

          I’m no great fan of the Nippy Sweetie, but she’s doing no more than playing to her natural supporters – just like many other politicians do! And as the First Minister of Scotland, she’s certainly entitled to bid, cajole, and argue for these ships (or more realistically, for part of the work) to be built in Scotland.

          A minority, devolved SNP administration in Edinburgh doesn’t mean that Scotland is on the road to independence. The fortunes of Scottish nationalism will inevitably ebb and flow over the years, indeed, evidence would suggest that particular tide is currently receding.

          You do need to stop treating every utterance by the SNP so hysterically. If I can cope with the current SNP administration – so can you! (And I’m a lot nearer!) LOL

          • (Chris H) Alan – I am not sure despising a group of people who seek to do severe damage to the Country I love is acting ‘hysterically’. It is just telling it how it is especially when the Leader of those people peddles profound and basic lies as she did this week

            As for ‘English Nationalism’ being the cause of Brexit that is profoundly untrue as 1 million Scots voted to Leave the EU, Wales voted by a good majority to leave the EU while NI there was a good number of Leave votes. However the ballot was a ‘one person one vote’ Referendum. It was not a constituency, region, country or local village vote. That the vote HAS BEEN dissembled into regions and countries might please the Remainers who are still fighting the result but it is irrelevant to the result. The UK as a whole voted to leave the EU and we will do just that in March 2019 (yes with a 20 month implementation period if we get a trade deal).

          • Hi Chris, As a Scot, the UK is my country too, and on the subject of Scottish nationalism, I do think some of your comments (on this thread & others) are a wee bit over the top. For instance, I disagree with Scot Nats, but I certainly don’t despise them – or indeed anyone else for that matter! Let’s keep it in proportion – we’re a long way from the break-up of the country that we both love.

            I am surprised that you dispute Brexit was largely a feature of English nationalism. Of the 17 million “Leave” votes, over 15 million were cast in England! Certainly, it wasn’t the outcome I was hoping
            for – but as you say, it was a UK vote – and I accept the outcome.

            However, I believe it was a misguided decision which will result in the UK being economically poorer, and with less influence internationally. It will be ironic if English nationalism turns out to be more damaging to the United Kingdom than the Scottish variant.

  14. After the conflagration that brewed up with the order for new trains for Thameslink (which went to Siemens in Germany), the government instituted a new policy when it comes to large procurement projects that took into account the social aspect of awarding contracts to suppliers outside the UK – at the time, there were worries that the Bombardier facility in Derby, which had also bid for the contract, and was the only domestic rolling stock producer, would go out of business. That being said, how can a contract be awarded to a British company if British companies don’t bid for it? While I don’t know whether any UK shipbuilders are interested in this particular deal, one would assume that, if they were, they will have attended this open day, they will have their designers and bean counters working on it, and they will be preparing their presentations. But if there aren’t any, then what? There is an onus on the government to be as transparent about the process as possible, stating very clearly from the outset who is bidding.

    • I think the reason the Thameslink trains went to Siemens was that the contract was originally constructed to include purchase and finance. Siemens financing was the cheapest. When the contract was reworked so that finance costs were broken out the actual costs of the goods became identifable. At this point if memory serves Siemens withdrew. Basically the government wanted to borrow money on the cheap and in so doing almost screwed domestic bidders.

    • You don’t have to open about who is bidding, you just have to ensure the procurement documentation is open to all potential bidders and then all bidders get access to the same information/treatment.

      You don’t nessesarly need tell the world who is bidding during the procurement process ( although you do after completion of the process as it will come under FOI.

  15. I am sure I watched a programme about the HMRY Britannia or some similar vessel where the yards had about 30 days to reply to a tender from the Govt. Not sure that would happen these days

  16. The odd thing to me about all of this comes from comparing it with the T31 process. For T31 we saw a fair number of design proposals appearing not that long after HMG announced the basic concept and then after the industry day we got the detailed MoD T31e core spec and timelines for the various stages of the design/bid/award process. For MARS SSS? About all we seem to know is that an industry day did happen.

    At least this appears to be moving forward now but I am very frustrated about the lack of information.

  17. It’s not just the actual cost of course, it’s the same philosophy as the UK has towards warships. The UK is a maritime nation, and needs to keep the complete shipbuilding capacity intact. Who knows what the political situation might be in 10 years or 20 years regards allies and friends against some form of disintegration and isolation within alliances.

  18. Its all well and good saying they must be built in the Uk but as i understand it no bids are currently in. No UK yard bid for the Tides and theres a good chance no UK yard will bid for these. Its up to Uk yards to compete and come up with a great product at a relatively competative price. I hope they can but i think it wont happen.
    Fingers crossed though

  19. The last time this happened with the MARS tankers, didn’t Luff say, I think we got away with it, or words to that effect?

    • Will for this to be anywhere near value for the UK taxpayer, the price needs to be 300 million to 350 million pounds for the whole job lot? If it is, how does the subsidy get to them without being seen?! UK yards will not bid if their own Government is working against them, so, therefore, us as a nation, which many of these people do! No UK yard bid for the MARS tanker probably because of this reason., They were pushed out and Government felt obliged to bow to EU regs! As a comparison (not in terms of the enormous cost of this contract) Is 6 billion pounds to do up the Westminster building in which many of its inhabitants still want to be subservient to a foreign parliament, value for the UK taxpayer? What will the potential growth be in doing up this building (apart from the local wine bars in London)?

  20. It’s also been said that we desperately need these ships as the carriers cannot operate without them. So it is also a sovereign needed requirement that we must provide ourselves? Rules and regs from places far away are undermining the UK. That is all there is to it. Roll on BREXIT!

  21. I was going to give links to the all the relevant Civitas articles, briefings and reports like or: and so on, there are so many, and people should read all of them though, along with modern shipbuilding technology if you are into shipbuilding and naval architecture. We would not be getting so many misinformed comments and would see the UK is viable and has a big future in this sector. But most assume, go along with an old dated narrative which incorrect and so damaging as many believe it to be the case. Othe links if allowed are: , , ,: (which I like to think I inspired as I am quoted) and: . Now people can poo poo this, but you have to stick your neck out, contribute and give constructive solutions and answers to questions if we want an ambitious and successful Britain that is looking to the future and with people who believe in can do, not cannot do.

  22. Someone has commented here or the previous article about these ships (been many, so they must be important), that some have commented about building similar to the carriers and using Rosyth, but Rosyth might be needed for the carriers etc. Well it depends on that crane and also the build plan and transportation costs, if it requires only a few crane lifts, it may not be wanted (if it’s only short term thinking by Babcock, but the crane is owned by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance) and other dry docks are available at Rosyth, as well as Birkenhead, Inchgreen (ambition for the new digital shipyard at Inchgreen development for Britain, which would complement other yards), Cammell Laird, Belfast, A&P Tyne and few others . But, South Korean Yards do this, as in having feeder yards to Ulsan that build certain sections that suit their facilities and model.

    • I totally missed Inchgreen – 300 metres long dry dock. Peel Ports apparently, with Cammell Laird given the rights to use it. There’s a campaign to save it.

      • (Chris H) dadsarmy – The vandalising of our industrial capability is not a past thing. This was only last year at Inchgreen

        Makes the decision by Gordon Brown to build the carriers in his constituency of Rosyth look even more corrupt when you see the size of docks at Inchgreen.

        But good as Inchgreen is it is nowhere near the capabilities of the docks at Belfast. And H & W have two gantry cranes capable of lifting between them the largest sections delivered to Rosyth.

        • Chris, yes to the vandalising, and it’s why even long-time Indy supporters like me need to stand up in solidarity with the UK shipyard workers – and particularly the capability of the surrounded by flaming water UK to build flaming ships.

          Sorry, I’m in an aggressive mood today 🙂

        • They were old luffing cranes that are not suited to modern shipbuilding. Inchgreen is a work in progress.

      • Yes. It has huge potential and seen as the first purpose-built intelligent digital shipyard for the UK. Britain’s Meyer Werft, but better! Will and desire along with some money will see this happen and succeed.

  23. Britain, the UK is on the cusp of total success in modern shipbuilding. Only this (as past, liblabcon as they are all the same) UK government ministers can reject the UK shipbuilding sector by giving the three solid support ships contract away abroad, so will be destroyed, as the poxy 5 or more type 31es frigates are nothing compared to this. We need a new pro-industrial party otherwise. Guto Bebb. Check him out.

  24. I don’t get why me as a tax payer should subsidies a unprofitable industry. Back in the day when the navy was huge and the ship yards were pumping out ships, they were not competitive enough to get foreign orders because they just sucked up tax payers money and didn’t need to compete, bringing back to 2018 is a handful of aux ships really going to make it suddenly competitive, their days are gone.

    We are still one of the largest manufacturing countries in the world, and so we can be competitive, where the industry embraces modern approaches to the process. It seems for heavy military hardware we just are not.

    Let’s just get these ships built and focus on supporting our navy rather than crippling it by using the defence budget to prop up industry that can’t support itself.

    • In a time of war, we call upon our UK industry to support it! The whole point of the Sir John Parker report is that industries that win taxpayer-funded contracts modernise as a condition so they can compete. What you are missing here is that UK warships are not more expensive than other nations and that the past Wave tankers were built at a good competitive price. This is not an ailing industry. Get with the times my friend! To support itself, it needs belief in it’s own government and nation. Do you think the South Koreans and Chinese industries support themselves, or that the German and Italian, French and Netherlands ones support themselves? Come on. The irony is, only China has cheaper wage rates (not to say ours are bad but competitive). In order to compete, we need orders and belief from the UK herself. Just check out warships costs and prices of the past 10 to 15 years and see that we fair well. I say to all. Do some study! The Navy has crippled industry by chopping and changing requirements and design in the past. Only BAE has had the size and clout to do the opposite, and I do not see them as shipbuilders. They do it for convenience.

      You say: “It seems for heavy military hardware we just are not”. Why do you think this? Self-doubt is such a damaging illness.

    • Sorry to go on at you. But, Heavy Industry is being hurt by our own governments lack of interest and Uk governments do not like manufacturing at the moment, that;’s why we need a real party that embraces manufacturing. But go back to heavy hi-tech. We built those two 285 meters, 72,000 long tons (Britain always measures in long tons unless that’s changed, and unless the Carrier has a ridiculously low block coefficient, the long tons displacement looks correct), in the space of 9-10 years, which would have been less and costs lower if not for politicians and officials meddling. Possibly 6 years and around 3 to 4 billion for two ships. The POW albeit with sections already manufactured (but that’s how cruise ships are made to look like they have been built in a short space of time, like other ships too) was assembled in a very short space of time. Also, we have not built or designed carriers like these for over 70 and 50+ years. A remarkable achievement which many doubted. Who’s not a believer?

    • Darren, I love the enthusiasm of your postings, and agree with the in-UK shipbuilding element completely, but the paper at that link …

      … umm

      • Maybe so. But we cannot dispell anything that happens in this Country especially in connection with eu.

  25. FACT CHECK – EU law prevents the government from awarding the contract for these RFA ships to a UK yard without also inviting tenders from abroad. This is because they’re not warships (rather they’re auxiliaries) and therefore the EU treaty doesn’t allow use of its Article 346 exemption which allows the government to award warship building to the Clyde.

    Moreover the government is required by other EU law to set out its bidder selection criteria in advance, and can be challenged in court, including at the ECJ, if it awards the contract based on any other factors. As part of Brexit the government has said that existing EU laws will continue to apply.

    Hence the government is legally not allowed to give guarantees that these ‘non-warships’ will be built in the UK.

  26. I can honestly see valid points for domestic and foreign construction for these ships.

    The critical thing is that the Navy receive these ships, on time and in a cost efficient manner.

    We do however need an effective ship building strategy, so assuming there is a considerable cost difference, this difference should be paid by the Department of Trade and industry.

    Not impact the Defence budget.

  27. There is an article on Save the Royal Navy about the RFA and its 13 ships (inc Tides), that makes interesting reading. For me it also reinforces the need for a clear strategy that standardises platforms, supports the NSS and releases funding for escorts.

    We currently have a mix of Tides(4) Wave(2) Fort(3), Bays (3) and Argus(1). Add in Albion, Bulwark, Diligence, Scott, Ocean and the point class (4) and Mearsk Rapier and that should give us our large ship requirement for the NSS (23 ships in total).

    I would like to see us rationalise this into the following strategic large support ship fleet.

    8 Tide Class FFT (Aegir) – Cost £200m ea.
    8 Joint Amphibious Logistic platform (Aegir version of the Dutch JLSS class) – Cost £400m ea.
    8 Float on Float off platforms (please refer to article on TD before hammering me) – cost £150m ea.

    I know there are purists out there that want dedicated amphibious – but I would argue the KD class are the new breed of amphibious support. Able to hanger 6 Merlins and land 2 chinooks at once with a stern beach that could be used to launch and retrieve ship to shore connectors (S2S). I am also sure we could do something with landing crafts from the sides if designed properly.

    The FlO FLO’s article has also really opened my eyes to what is possible with these ships and their utility is pretty impressive, there is also a fairly bouyant market for these at certain times of year that could make them self funding. The MOD would need to have modules ready for them and a massive crane availaible at a couple of ship yards (anyone know where they may get one cheap!?!?) to load these modules which are massive.

    So, we have a need to build 24 ships over the next 30 years or roughly 1 ship per annum (given we have new tides and it will take a few years to get into the drumbeat).

    All of these ships should have the same hull form, engines and mechanicals wherever possible to standardise the parts inventory, this should be set for 5 year periods at least to allow for improvements to be made as we go along.

    You may disagree with the above – but at least it is a clear strategy that can be delivered as we know the price profile of these vessels (circa £6bn for the whole fleet) or £200m each year for the next 30 years, probably cheaper when you factor in efficiencies of scale and commonality of parts.

    The above would clearly support the NSS and for me would give the RN a lot of logistical clout.

    • I agree with some of this, BUT
      one ship every 5 years when russia was deploying 2 ships a year

      If the UK can afford to build the most expensive weaponless OPVs in the world then it can afford to build a few extra type 26s and type 31s to bring the warship fleet up beyond 35 ships (not counting OPV funnies)


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