An article in The Herald has oddly claimed that shipbuilding on the Clyde has “been dealt a blow” as new support vessels aren’t going to be built there.

The problem? The were never going to be, BAE aren’t even bidding for them.

The headline seems to set the tone for the rest of the article with a glaring error, “Clyde yards suffer new blow as Royal Navy orders set to go abroad”, they’re not Royal Navy, they’re for the RFA.

The article even says “unions had hoped the vessels would be constructed in yards across the UK and leave the specialist yards on the Clyde to built complex warships, support vessels are not complex warships by any definition and the unions appear well aware of the fact that the Clyde is at capacity with the Type 26 Frigate build and had no intention of bidding for this work. The 40,000 tonne support vessels wouldn’t even physically fit on the slip alongside the Type 26 Frigate builds.

The unions are advocating that the build stay in the UK, not that it be done on the Clyde. 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.”

The article which also appeared in The Evening Times also points out that unions are demanding the vessels are built in the UK, as seeking an international tender “undermines the national interest” however none of them are advocating for the 40,000 tonne support vessels be built on the Clyde which is expected to be at capacity until into the 2030’s, long after the date the vessels will be required.

We spoke to a contact at the BAE yard in Govan, who told us that the article was a bit surprising as no one at BAE expected the vessels would be built on the Clyde:

“Calling this a blow is a very strange choice of words. It [the article] came as a surprise frankly, I don’t think anyone here considers this any sort of blow especially as we were never going to be building them and BAE have no intention of bidding for them.

They’ll be going to South Korea like the tankers as I don’t think any UK yard is considering a bid for them, we certainly aren’t.”

Other than procurement activity undertaken during the World Wars, the UK has not had a complex warship built outside of the UK since the start of the 20th century at least. All of the Royal Navy’s new complex warships are being built in UK shipyards however merchant vessels for the RFA are not included in this and can be tendered overseas.

An MoD spokesperson said:

“There will be an international competition to build the ‘Fleet Solid Support’ supply ships, which UK companies will be able to enter, with a separate UK-only competition for customisation work and trials. This approach ensures the best value for money for taxpayers.”

The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 confirmed that three new large Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) Solid Support Ships would be acquired for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, to replace the single-hulled RFA Fort Victoria, which entered service in 1994, and RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Fort Austin (both dating from the late 1970s). The Solid Support Ship is designed to carry a wide range of stores to support other ships with ammunition, food and explosives to replenish naval ships at sea.

They will have extensive aviation facilities, with 2 flight decks, one at the stern and one spot on top of the hanger. They will have the ability to to replenish at sea via 6 replenishment stations, three on each side as well as using helicopters for vertical replenishment.

The ships are expected to enter service in the mid 2020s.

In summary the Clyde isn’t bidding for it, the Clyde has no capacity to build the vessels and the Clyde wasn’t expecting them. Hardly “a blow”.


  1. I would have thoughts since He works on the Clyde that they would know there will be no Ship building capacity until 2030 and we need to start building them soon. As we can’t wait another 13 plus years the the Fort-class replacements

  2. Just for once I agree with the Union. Without in any way going along with the current Scottish efforts at labelling anything as victimisation. Underneath the Clyde bullcrap is the sensible comment that these ships should be built in the UK. And there are more suitable shipbuilders than just BAE for whom this sort of ship is really not their line of work. Forgive me if I repeat my reasons for saying this elsewhere:

    “It is absolutely a destructive and suicidal way of thinking that ‘foreign is better and cheaper’. We have, as a country, happily exported our jobs, investment and development capabilities for decades to foreign countries who now have a grip over our trade in certain areas. And this is in every industry not just shipbuilding. When I started out after school at 16 as an apprentice Jig & Toolmaker (in the mid ’60s) we led the world in practically every industry. And now?

    We CAN still be the best and innovate better than most as projects as diverse as Crossrail and the QE Class carriers have proved but we need to keep investing HERE to train school leavers, motivate young people to make things again and improve homegrown engineers. Because when you stop making things you are nothing.

    Given that some 40% of any project is labour cost then just by buying and building here we save 40% right off. Plus we then capture the tax, NI and later the VAT generated by that home funded workforce. It is this sort of beneficial circle that drives an economy. The Tide Class are of course good ships but all we did was fund thousands of South Korean jobs and their economy rather than our own. And add £ Mns to our trade deficit. And this isn’t me flying my Union Flag, looking like some John Bull character and dancing to the Protectionist music. This is hard nosed economics where what goes round comes round.

    Then of course there is the wider supply chain employment and investment that adds further benefit to our economy. So I really do not have a problem if we pay more for a Frigate, tanker or whatever built here as overall it costs the country less in the wider and more important economy.

    And lastly I get seriously hacked off seeing hard earned UK taxpayer money being shipped to other countries for their benefit. If a private company wishes to ‘buy foreign’ that is a matter for them (and isn’t it instructive how many ‘foreign’ companies are investing and buying UK manufacturing companies and yet the argument still prevails that ‘foreign is better’). But when it is public money it should never be shipped abroad. It should be used for OUR benefit. After all its OUR money and, in this case, they will be OUR ships.”

      • That’s because the MoD and Treasury have made it clear a British bid would be unsuccessful.

        They could be built in blocks and assembled at Rosyth just like the carriers.

        Yes they would have a higher price tag but a lot of that would come straight back to the UK Treasury in the form of Personal & Business taxes plus 20% VAT. Let alone all the social and industrial benefits to the UK.

        The National Shipbuilding strategy was delivered a few weeks ago. First ship orders since will go to the Koreans. That tells you everything you need to know.

        • A British yard could not build them for anything like the same price (50% – 100% more ?) that’s why non will bid. If you want them built here presumably you would be happy to see half as many or will it be Father Christmas to the rescue ?

          • The direct tax is around 40%, not including other taxes and benefits. It should be a non-starter in building UK taxpayer-funded, and UK consumer paid ships abroad. People need to understand the other complicate areas like tax clawback and cost should be given after many many factors are calculated in, (just putting a price against a foreign competitor in not accurate and unfair to the UK firms, which is what this eu like to see). They need to be, otherwise we will still get comments like they are cheaper by half, negating the fact that our energy and tax regime pays for much. Also, South Korean wages are not far behind, with Japan much higher. Not saying we are bad though. They are not half the price or cheaper, this is a myth and suites vested interests.

      • Peter – Yes I did (twice) but apparently you didn’t. Nowhere does it say that. The nearest is a quote from BAE saying “I don’t think any UK yard is considering a bid for them”

        In fact the MoD are saying “There will be an international competition to build the ‘Fleet Solid Support’ supply ships, which UK companies will be able to enter” So quite the opposite to your comment.

        So the test is whether the Government intends to make the NSS work as of now. We have massive dry docks in Belfast and all shipyards bar Tyneside are on the West side of the country but that didn’t stop us building two carriers with all yards bar Tyneside on the ‘wrong’ side of the country to Rosyth.

        If a Korean bid is 40% cheaper than any UK yard we should still place the orders here for the reasons I gave. if they are even lower priced than that then maybe someone should ask if there is some sort of ‘industrial support’ being provided by the Korean Government.

      • If you put out that idea, which past Governments did, no UK consortia will bid, just to be rejected by their own government. Why the heck would you bid if the cards were stacked against you?! This UK government thinking is in the least, totally mad, and most, treasonous and suicidal industrial thinking, when we have an industry on the brink of success, instead they could kill it.

      • Peter French, Why was no U.K. yard interested in bidding? Because they have deliberately waged war against British shipbuilding (and EVERY other British industry) to the point where it is tiny, and uncompetitive, just like they wanted. This was planned all along. They knew this would happen, that is why they did it.

        Did they make sure ahead of time that British shipyards would be in a position to bid? No, because they wanted this, it was them who made sure we would be in this position.

        Now we know there isn’t the capacity will they ensure that there is? “NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! British shipbuilding must NEVER be revived in any meaningful way!, it must be kept tiny and uncompetitive! Just like we wanted all along! It was us who deliberately made sure this would happen and now we are here we are going to deliberately make sure it stays like this forever! hahahhahaha!”

  3. Another “fake news” sensationist non news headline by a red top newsheet and of course a Union outrage statement from an idiot who like this newspaper doesnt want to know the facts. No wonder they undermine any real issue they may have by drumming up something which has no fact Stupid

    • The Herald still supports the Union rather than Independence though it has become more neutral. It’t the Sunday Herald did support Independence, maybe still does, with its sister paper The National actually supporting Indy.

      The Herald takes up issues local to Scotland, and why should it not?

  4. I would like to see 4 of these built to the same standards as the Tide class – but configured like the dutch JLSS Karel Doorman.

    I would be very happy if these were built in the UK – but if by building them in Korea it releases money to build more T26 or T31’s in the UK then so be it.

    These should be part of the NSS and therefore be built in the UK – but it has to be at a competitive price (not necessarily the cheapest). Having seen the tides though – they are great quality ships built at an incredible price point.

    • I think the tides are of good quality. However people who say “well domestic yards aren’t bidding” or “the Clyde and other builders don’t want the work” are being disingenuous. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that DSME had someone on the committee engaged in insider trading and sweetheart deals in exchange for issuing a contract that they would be the only concievable bidder.

      • I have been on a Tide boat and I will be sailing one back. The build quality is good and the machining tolerances are less than the UK. There are problems but there are problems in any new build ship and DSME are doing an excellent job. I would be happy to have FSS built in Korea but I think the politcial pressures to prop up failing industry that can’t compete with the rest of the world is too great, however just lik with the Tides and yards being busy they are now busy with the new frigates and no one will tender a bid. in that case what are our options? We need FSS for the carrier regardless of where it is built and who gets sad.

    • The tides are way over schedule and have been plagued with problems like the wrong wiring, etc. They do everything they can to keep that a secret whilst shouting from the rooftops about any British problems (deliberate and organized war against British industry which has been waged for decades and is still being waged to this day).

  5. I really would like to see Cammel Laird become the home of the RFA in build and maintenance, perhaps we can have an RFA fleet of 12/13 vessels built at a rate of 1 every 2 years.

    Surely this is good all round and would mean CL is RFA lead, Barrow, Subs, Clyde T26 and Babcock (other) T31’s lead yards.

    Isn’t that what the NSS should have done?

        • Well it took HMS Eagle a 900ft /45K ton carrier when she dry docked for servicing…..They had to chip away one side of the dock and it left 3″ clearance either side of the vessel….I was aboard her.!

    • Well, the shed at Cammell Laird is 140 metres long, the Tides are 200 metres. It would need investment, and quite difficult there, as the slipways come each side I think.

  6. I think I’ll probably go into shock when one of our wonderful newspapers get something right. We don’t seem to have any reporters these days. Just sensationalists making up their own rubbish. I do wonder sometimes is some of them can even read.

  7. That these are not currently under consideration by British Yards underlines my concerns about the NSS. Not enough sustained meat to allow UK yards to make it work. The NSS is a sheep in wolfs clothing and Govt is a disgrace.

    • I thought the NSS was a good idea until, basically, instead of thinking as one does “it’s just unions and they would say that”, when they said that competition was a race to the bottom and would lead to shipbuilders going out of business. Then I realised they had a point. There’s not enough navy shipbuilding, even including the RFAs, to allow an open competitive tendering process in the UK, it does need “protectionism”.

  8. Moving sideways, it’s just been announced that the Joint Helicopter Command is cutting back on training, particularly overseas, due to lack of resources. Good eh?

  9. No UK yard will bid for the business.

    So why don’t the unions form a workers co operative and use their members cash to fund it?

    Talk is cheap, action to make things better is always someone else’s problem.

    The unions need to stop moaning and do something for a change.

    • There’s quite a lot of support available from Government, both UK and Scottish, and councils for co-operatives, so this is a good idea.

      • Please dont differentiate when you say ” There’s quite a lot of support available from Government, both UK and Scottish”
        I thought Scotland was part of the Uk so should not be seperated when you say things like that

        • It’s different levels of funding Baz, available from all 3 levels if they choose. There’s even EU funding on top, but not I guess for much longer.

  10. Some good comments below the line. I didn’t comment on that article in the broadly Union supporting Herald (it came out for NO a few days before the date of the Indy Ref), as it was closed to comment, but did on a similar one in The National which completely supports Independence. Just so posters here know the political angles.

    The (trades) Union has a point though. If the RFAs were built in the UK then there’s less competition for the T31e, and more chance of BAE actually building them there – in theory. In practice it would need a quick and large investment by BAE in Scotstoun, which in the absence of certain orders they’re quite reasonably reluctant to make.

    But there is also Babcock (working perhaps with BMT who had a hand in the Tide design), and Roysth as others have pointed out. Basically the way shipbuilding in the UK has been treated the RFAs are too long and big for many places to be able to even contemplate assembling them, though they could bid for blocks.

    As for the cost, £100 million spent in South Korea is a £100 million cost with not much coming back to the economy in the UK, though apparently some stuff is sourced in the UK.

    But £150 million (just for an illustrative figure) spent in the UK brings 50% back to the economy, so the nett cost is £75 million to the UK, but £150 cost to the MOD, the Treasury trousering the £75 million economy multiplier benefit in terms of profit tax, income tax and VAT from the direct and indirect spending. It could be said the Treasury is the villain here, not the MOD.

    • Agreed. The QEC ‘Alliance’ successfully rekindled UK ship building but it is still too fragmented and fragile to enable meaningful competitive tendering for FSS. Especially so since the most likely bidders would be Cammell Laird or Babcock, both of whom are bidding for Type 31. The government needs to step in here and make sure there is a UK ( consortium) bid for these ships. Considering FSS separately from Type 31 is tantamount to giving the business abroad and starving UK shipbuilding just at the point when it needs to grow.

  11. Sorry Korean yards are like a production line, blocks are made to a specific schedule with
    no delays, ships will always cost more money in UK yards as the customer always deviates from contract specification and the yard then makes up a figure trebles it and makes a bundle out of that change, look at the aircraft carrier and see the over runs with indecision from ski jump ramp, no skijump, etc etc etc it goes on and on. lets see what emerges from vibration problems on shafts, underwater coatings, flight deck coatings.

      • Yes they were delayed (but still within the contract margins) due to no fault of Daewoo. The regulations were changed on cabling and the yard was forced to do some rewiring on the first of class. It made no significant affect on the induction into service process for the class.

        Daewoo offered to build all four vessels in parallel and deliver at the same time. The RFA didn’t have the capacity to induct the vessels all at once. Ironically that lack of capacity meant rectification works was avoided on the whole class.

        So do you keep up with the newspapers?

    • Seems to be a constant problem the UK yards face, which Sir John Parker picks up on. Introduce a change, the UK yards get the blame. The Mars ship tankers actually cost 766 million pounds, just the production of the hulls, as this was never been clawed back in taxes. They are not cheaper in any way.

    • Tha is what the digital shipyard is all about! A production line. Something ewe did years ago. We are re-learning. South Korea learnt from us, and so it goes.

  12. Of course shipbuilding in the UK won’t get any form of subsidy, protection or investment because none of them are in the city of London so they don’t matter just like steelworkers.
    Banks on the other hand will get bailed out by our politicians and to the tune of £billions because they all went to the same school and are all genuinely good chaps!

      • Sadly, I pointed steelworks being hit in the future to John Redwood when 2007-08 bank bailouts happened. It does not take a genius, which I am obviously not. Did shipbuilding and steel making ever make the cost of living high, especially compared to banks and the square mile?

    • Sjb – You started off making a valid point about subsidies and spoilt it by adding your rather sad Leftie [email protected] on a) how the lack of liquidity was the issue in 2008, b) it was Labour ‘wot done it’ and c) the assumption that every politician went Eton. You might want to read up on what Quantitative Easing actually was, what it does and what it achieves. I doubt you know the UK Taxpayer made a substantial profit from what you call ‘bailed out Bankers’. Which does not excuse their irresponsible behaviour.

      The UK Government actually DID support steelworkers despite being hamstrung by EU competition regulations that seem to allow German state intervention but not British. There are now more private businesses owning and investing in British Steel industry and actually making profits. Thousands of jobs were saved and are now being created again.

      But back to your initial valid point: No we cannot subsidise our shipbuilding industry because we are in the EU (still). We are therefore bound by rigid rules and have to open up every contract over specified values to foreign companies and advertise said opportunities in the ‘Journal of the EU’. Its why we nearly slaughtered our only remaining UK train maker (Bombardier) when we handed the biggest ever rail contract to Siemens in Germany (Class 700). Luckily the resulting outcry caused the penny to drop, strategy was changed and now we have Bombardier, Hitachi and soon CAF building thousands of new trains here in the UK. HS2 will increase that manufacturing and bring the UK into Very High Speed manufacturing.

      After March 2019 we can establish our own industrial strategy (like the NSS) and fund it how we choose. Now that does not mean we can break WTO rules on subsidised exports but we will be able to define what we spend, where and how in internal industries. Just as the USA, Sth Korea and all the rest do. That these strategies then also enable competitive exporting is an added bonus (or in the case of Boeing the sole intention). But the strategy and investment ‘horse’ must come before the exporting ‘cart’.

      • Bombardier and Hitachi are not British. It is just more of the same deliberate and organized war against British industry as what we are seeing here. Deliberately close every last British train maker down, knowing full well we will always need trains, then you can give every single British train order from now until forever to a foreign company.

        Same as deliberately make sure every single large British shipyard is closed down so when contracts like this come up they will go to foreigners. Just as was planned all along.

        It would be a million times better to set up a brand new British factory and give them the orders for British trains, and we will always need trains. They would NEVER let that happen, they deliberately wanted this all along, they want to destroy Britain’s industries (and by now they almost have) so we have to go cap in hand for EVERYTHING to a foreign company. We are the ONLY major European country who has been humiliated in this way. Deliberately.

        We have to have a complete change of attitude and start rebuilding our industries here in Britain.

  13. The Tide Class job was only 4 ships. And that’s why a UK yard can’t keep the price down. We spend so much on design every time we need a new ship.

    The RN + RFA have 20 or so big ships each lasting 30 years or so. The last UK yard to accept a 4 ship job (Bay Class LSL) was Swan Hunter on the Tyne and look what happened to them.

    Those 20 ships are of 10 different designs but they all JUST CARRY STUFF. We just need one hull design with configurable spaces, one yard and one new big ship every 18 months. Ruthless economies of scale, permanant jobs and a stable fleet size.

    • Tim agreed but where would the yard be located that’s the problem because that is where politics comes into it. If we are honest given the current size of the RN and even if it were to grow the number of Naval bases should be reduced but of course the MOD budget is as much about maintaining jobs as it is defending the realm. Personally I believe with modular construction we should still spread work around the UK and with our imminent vacating of the EU and its procurement rules we could try to reintroduce some merchant ship construction. This might help keep costs down and make a few yards viable long term. Of course this would take vision, investment and a will from a Government who was prepared to act strictly in the UK national interest. I am therefore not optimistic.

      • My RN fleet and suggested yards below…

        BAE, Barrow…
        • 12 Astutes. Four with an 8 cell VLS system for cut down Trident of 10 tons instead of 60, but still capable of 4000 km with 4 warheads. Would operate from Plymouth and Barrow. Coulport and Faslane to close.

        Cammel Laird, Liverpool…
        • 12 Multi Mission RFAs of 40t tons. A bigger version of the Point Class with 3 Chinook pads and fixed overhanging davits for LCM and RAS duties. All cargo would be vehicles or containers (including fuel storage) or modules for accomodation or similar.
        • 4 Aircraft Carriers using same hull as above but a flat top and two Astute reactors, operating Sea Grippen, Wildcat and drones.

        A&P Tyne…
        • 12 Multi Mission support ships of 12t tons operating like the survey ships or RFA Diligence or Bay Class. Double hangar and pad plus cargo spaces and mission bay with CB90 ramps.
        • 4 Ice Breakers of 12t tons.

        Babcock, Plymouth…
        • 24 Warships of 5t tons using T23 hull but with stealthy superstructure and CB90 ramps. Fitted with 76mm Gun, CAMM, NSM, 40mm CTA, LMM, 12.7mm, Torpedoes, Wildcat and drones.

        Babcock, Appledore…
        • 24 Patrol/MCMVs of 1t tons with 9m RHIB and drones. Fitted with mine hunting sonar, 40mm CTA, LMM and 12.7mm.

        Holyhead Marine, Anglesea…
        • 25m LCMs. 16m CB90s. 9m RHIBs.

        • I am on board with your plan (although have a slightly different fantasy fleet in mind) and would say this is doable over the 25 year horizon.

          For Patrol and MCM’s I also see one class of ship and realistically our patrol vessels should be old MCM’s in the last 10 years of their lifespan.

          I see no reason to remove work from Scottish shipyards as they are part of the union, but clearly if the UK invests in them then moving them and the nuclear bases out of Scotland will need to be funded by an independent Scotland.

          I think it is worth considering whether an astute could have 8 smaller SSBN’s as why does each missile have to have 40 warheads. Although suspect the cost is not in successor itself but in the warheads.

        • Initially, I thought “not a bad attempt, Tim”; then I read about the closure of Scottish bases, and no orders for the Clyde, and it all just got a bit silly …….

          • Yes fine but this is my list. I think (1) BAE have had enough of our defence budget to the extream detriment of our entire industry and to the detriment of our services, (2) the Clyde yards have also had more than their share, and (3) the SNP are trying to get rid of us so much and winning votes for it that I think there will eventually be an IndyRef2. I can’t say that I want to lose Scotland at all but with 60% of the MPs up there wanting us to get out why should I feel obliged to invest at the expense of jobs in England where most taxes come from in the first place.

          • Hi Tim, The Clyde has been a centre of excellence for ship-building in the UK for over 100 years. Historically, that’s where most of the yards where situated, and that’s why the rump of what’s left of British ship-building is situated on the banks of the river.
            Scotland has made a huge contribution to the success of the UK, and continues to do so. (As regards taxes, my friend DadsArmy would probably jump in at this point, and mention oil revenues over the last 40 years. So let’s not go there!)
            The SNP is not Scotland; the majority of Scots support our place within the United Kingdom. The unionist vote in Scotland is divided between the three main parties, that largely explains the SNP majority in recent elections. In 2017, however, the Scots discovered tactical voting, hence the defeat of Salmond, Robertson et al in the recent General Election. Most Scots want devolution to work better, not independence.
            Who knows what the future will bring, but I wouldn’t be so pessimistic about “indyref2” – and I would respectfully suggest that your arguments would be enhanced if framed on that basis. The Scots are cautious and canny voters – generally, we don’t vote for political instability and economic uncertainty; if only our fellow Britons had exercised similar judgement during the Brexit referendum!
            Good to debate with you, Tim.

  14. At the risk of pointing out the bleeding obvious. The UK does have the scale to justify a number of yards, but it needs co-ordination and investment. I often cite Eddie stobarts who dont allow their fleet of vehicles to become so old that maintenance costs get of out control, but the UK we do.

    Carriers – 2
    Complex warships (over 90m) – 19
    Submarines – 11
    Large Amphib and Support – 20
    Medium build (30-95m) – 20
    Small Patrol Vessels (under 30m) – 25
    Enabling vessels and systems (Rhibs, Atlas etc) – 400 (estimate)
    Tugs – 20?
    Coastguard/Border Control – 5?
    RNLI – ?
    Survey vessel (non RN) – 3

    So we have a government requirement for 100 significant vessels with an average lifespan of 25 year which means our yards can build 4 ships p.a. On average and a load of other smaller vessels. This is simple scheduling/fleet/budgeting management where you know you have x requirement and plan and budget on a like for like replacement, making minor changes to increase capacity or change specification along the way.

    We can then use this analysis to create a sustainable pipeline of work and take the benefits of investing in some of the poorest communities in the UK by providing high quality jobs. An added benefit is that we then assign funds on a fairly static bases with slight deviations for those years requiring major expense (its called portfolio smoothing for the non PM’s).

    Really the NSS should have sorted this out – All successful exporters have a large and heavily invested domestic base that allows them to innovate whilst driving costs down and high levels of industry concentration and integration, none of which the UK has.

    The Koreans have set everything up right next to each other and the steel comes straight from the onsite factory into the ship yard and it is veery efficient – not the model recommended in the NSS. Even the US are down to 2 or 3 yards and they have a massive budget and requirement.

  15. Unfortunately we have tried the single source supplier route with no competition and that has seen huge cost increases. When will the public sector learn because it is not just the MOD that suffer from this affliction We have even bought overpriced OPVs that we do not currently need. The issue is not whether we have a few diversified yards that perhaps can build modules or complete ships but having a genuine long term pipeline for new ships and investment in developing a manufacturing base. All we have of course is continual new reports, procurement studies, consultations and of course white papers etc. The public sector is drowning in new initiatives but nothing seems to change.

  16. The UK national Shipbuilding strategy?

    Building the new support ships overseas is not “a blow to the Clyde yards, it would be a blow to UK shipbuilding as a whole, and the answer would be that there is no UK National Shipbuilding Strategy, not with 5 Frigates and some subs. You cannot have a National strategy when you are abiding by EU and any other foreign rules that are killing UK industry, which others do not adhere too, and get around by saying the sailors are military and the ships are warships, aka, Germany Italy Netherlands have done this!

    BAE will not bid, even though the yard they rent Govan (which should have been brought by the owner of Fergusons until he started saying about competition against BAE and with the reduction of Type 26’s to 6 or 8, BAE had the excuse and decided to retain Govan Fairfield’s shipyard), and Barrow in which their KOFAC website has always had ambition in building MARS related ships, to have surface (complex) shipbuilding capability, but not with BAE, the non shipbuilder, shipbuilder.

    BAE will see the Fleet Solid Support Ships as a more intensive ship build than the frigate build. The hull build cost percentage is higher than a Frigate or Destroyer. BAE do not like that.

    The ships are more steel intensive and they are only interested in getting their expensive wares installed without the hassle of building them. So they assume and hope they will be built abroad. This does two things, it stops a future more competitive UK shipbuilding develop, and protects their expensive shipbuilding activates by holding back potential UK competitors, and probably has other advantages for them, that are to our (as Country) disadvantage. They are a vested interest. The yards that they own, are great and more ambitious real shipbuilders than BAE itself is, which is very sad.

    The Fleet Solid Support Ship light, could well be 5 times heavier than a full load Type 31 Frigate, but this is why building these ships here in the UK is so important, it is meaningful shipbuilding that the future modern UK shipbuilding sector will embark on.

    A price floated around (no pun intended) is 1 billion pound for the 3 FSS ships. The constant figure I get online and speaking to a few friends in places do say that basic tax claw back excluding other forms indirect, is between around 38 to 40+ percent. So, does South Korea (we already know the Country is playing at being sweet with bonds, brotherhood and the such) put in a price of 1 billion pounds (with or without UK content)? Does that mean a UK firm places a competitive tender at 1.4 billion pounds, or South Korea places a tender at 600 million? But this is affected by this UK content (I assume the self entitled sectors that are protected, electronics, sticker putter onnerers, anything BAE and UK design houses that do not seem affected by these hugely damaging rules).

    Say South Korea (all their collective shipbuilding firms) places a tender at 999 million pounds against 1 billion for the UK consortia tender, with the South Korean deal, the UK gets just 3 ships and nothing else. No future investment in facilities (part of the condition as Sir John Parker states) and people, no belief, loss of a huge amount of money that is no re-circulated round the UK by business and it’s workers etc…

    If the UK consortia places a tender the same price as South Korea (this is where the UK firms need to be careful, because they could end up at a loss and bankrupt due to the tax claw back the country gets if they put in a price similar to South Korea, and that is not fair. Some may say, but South Korean firms pay some tax, but that is totally irrelevant), the UK consortia will cost far less, so is it fair to say that if the UK Consortia place a tender that looks far higher, they are more expensive, when every factor is calculated, the UK bid and cost is actually cheaper, plus the socio impact is positive with a growing developing modern competitive UK shipbuilding sector. Something most of us known for years, we can compete in!

    That said. despite what BAE has said. The boss of Cammell Laird (the UK’s most dynamic shipbuilder, and why I fear them teaming up with the most anti, it’s just metal basing, (which is so wrong) BAE, who would sell there own mother for quid) has mentioned wanting the Fleet Solid Support Ships.

    Going back to the Clyde. The only way Govan (Scotstoun?) will build Fleet Solid Support Ship parts, is by being integrated fully in a consortia that does not impede with the Type 26’s (same goes with Type 31’s but with Scotstoun too) build if there is overlap. The other facility that is now being spoken off with a huge shipbuilding future for future long term development, is Inchgreen, so Clydeside could have more of a bigger shipbuilding future potentially than people realize. The Inchgreen dry dock that this facility is based around is on the Cammell Laird website, so can they develop it with Peel for future big assembly and integration?

    Babcock Rosyth. They have the dry docks and big cranage, along with A&P Tyne and Pallion Wear as feeder yards.

    The future of the Fleet Solid Support Ships is based around the coast of Scotland. The amount of steel work may be near the two carriers amount, but less value added, so a closer consortia of moving parts about may be desirable. But there is a future, as long as the FSSS are built here in the UK! Plus, the UK government needs to buy the main material itself, rather than BAE buying from abroad to possibly profit, but is a case of private firm working against the national interest. May be also that the Plate mills at Scunthorpe and Glasgow were not working at the time. This would also bring into play the Appleby-Frodingham plate mill (still mothballed)!

    There are many plans and strategies for building the type 31’s, and I hope there are for the UK in building the FSS Ships.

    I do not know fully how it all works, and it is complex. But just looking into this deeper, it becomes even more apparent, that building abroad is devastating for the UK from every angle. It is a major transfer of wealth in something we have always been capable of doing, should be doing, and been very good at, despite the what is now, a very short period of industrial problems that has had too long a term consequences. Many assumed beliefs and attitudes need to change for us to succeed. With less negative, non constructive, sarcastic and pessimistic cannot do comments on this site too. In this case, the lack of faith really would be disturbing.

    • We are on the verge of something great or disaster, which is melancholy with huge contracts given away abroad, but we have some frigates to build, and big up what is little, which is something recent UK governments are happy with. I like many, are not! They even down and undermine our own industries to justify it, and some believe this.

      • Darren – have to agree with everything you have written there. I wonder if some bright shipbuilder will call the Government’s bluff and put in a bid price ‘netted off’ with the Income Tax, NI, corporation tax, VAT and all the other ways the Government claws a tax take that will return directly and indirectly to HM Treasury.

        And as I said above what price training young people, sparking an interest in engineering with school leavers and generating meaningful incomes for less well off communities. And the investment in a resurgent industry

        The reduction in welfare costs alone will probably be worth millions

    • Just replying to myself, I said: “Does that mean a UK firm places a competitive tender at 1.4 billion pounds, or South Korea places a tender at 600 million?”.

      It is not 1.4 billion but1 billion dived by 60% (minus the 40% tax clawback) then add 40% and mutiply by 100 (%) tax clawback, makes 1.666 billion as a competitive tender from the UK, let alone every other benefit these ship contracts give.

    • It’s not a new thing in Britain to undermine others to suit the others who are in the wrong or caused them the disaster. Stanley Goodhall or D’Eyncourt said they were being used as a scapegoat to cover the fact that Admirals at the time (Beatty most likely, who commanded the battlecruiser squadron!) were saying feed the guns as fast as possible and putting munitions in a dangerous place to make as fast as possible loading. The blame for ship losses was put on the Naval Architects, who were arguably the greatest warship designers of certainly the first half of the century. All to protect the establishment and their cronies.

      UK shipbuilding was blamed for not build the QM2, despite the other. It’s been like this since, and has to end.

  17. This Country is on the verge of success in shipbuilding again. If those Fleet Solid Support Ships are spunked off abroad for a face price that is not value for the taxpayer, we have lost. But politicians say otherwise because they twist, lie and polish turds for a living (are they value for the taxpayer, along with doing up an old building for 6 billion quid for Westminster Palace that should be sold, but that will probably enrich their mates?). It is as simple as that. I sorry to be graphic.

    • Excellent postings. For me there are two problems which are being avoided, but need to be faced full on. The first is an accounting change, whereby the MOD gets a kickback for economic activity it generates in the UK economy. There should be a way this can be done within all compeitive rules, perhaps simply by linking the activity with the next year budget according to some algorithm.

      So if 2020 building activity costing £1 billion generates £500 million worth of revenue in the economy, that £500 million either gets added to the next year budget, or treated as underspend and carried forward. Rules are followed, but the MOD doesn’t lose out spending more to have ships built in the UK. There is still a nett benefit to the UK Gov in terms of increased GDP, and its contribution to lowering or keeping the same, interest rates and credit ratings, as well as political benefit.

      The second is “my” problem as an Indy supporter for Scotland, and that’s simply, why should the UK Gov / MOD / BAE invest in Scotland if in 3 or 4 years we’re offski? That too can be taken care of in accounting, so that while say the Clyde gets benefit of UK investment, on Independence there is an offset added or included in the negotiations afterwards. The idea would be that the T26 could still carry on being built on the Clyde to avoid disruption to MOD building plans and budgets, but not giving us an unfair share of the economic benefit of that activity. Yes, not easy to negotiate, but if there was any fairness on either side, it should at least be possible.

      That way the UK could invest all over the UK, without worry that its investment be lost.

      On the other hand, I might go to sleep tonight and wake up with the winning lottery numbers for next week. Why? Because there isn’t the brains in Government – any government – nor the will. When it comes down to it, they’re all politicians.

      • I as a pro-united Britainer would wave the tax clawback, as I was born because of a united Britain, so was the RMS Queen Elizabeth (the greatest ship ever built ), so how could I ever hate Scotland? But if Scotland left, I would still support Scotland, because, for me, Britain is bigger than politics. For me, I’m into British shipbuilding. I know economics would say different. But they don’t seem to get involved in regards to building ships abroad in actual foreign Countries. Scotland will never be foreign.

        • For me, emotion and blood trumps politics. I don’t want to see Scotland ever hurt. I hate seeing the game playing to do with such an emotive subject such as shipbuilding, something Britain will be great at again. We are already, we have no realized it yet.

          • It sounds that the way a lot of you talk on here that you all seem very intelligent people and seem to know a lot of the things we discuss on here
            But and theres always a but regarding an independent Scotland
            If they do decide to leave this union i for one want no naval shipbuilding whatsoever to to be given to them
            Darren-” But if Scotland left, I would still support Scotland, because, for me, Britain is bigger than politics ”
            That may be true but it is politics that will have destroyed the union
            The MOD say warships should be built in this country which i agree with RFAs are different as they come under different rules and regs and not as complicated as a warship (believe me i know having served in the RFA for a long time )
            To finish this Scotland would to all sense and purposes be a foreign country just the same as Ireland is even though we are all part of the same island group (British Isles)
            Rant over

      • Baz. You have very valid points, and I do get emotional about my Country, that’s why I do not speak out her union here. But we are still a multi-state Country and Scotland has all the rights as any other state in this Country, and I want to see Scotland thrive. The FSS ships will be more complex than the Tankers, but that does not get away from the fact that these are taxpayer funded ships that now have the rule as you say, foisted upon us that impedes a future invigorate improved UK shipbuilding industry. We just cannot abide by eu rules that are killing us. Complex or not, they should be UK built. These rules are hugely damaging, and many people are not aware of them. They can even have an impact on our union in which the government gives a contract abroad for a little less price at the expense of an industry in Scotland. Who gets the blame? Certain rules are so damaging and are impeding our progress. We built tankers only a short while ago, probably more recently than Frigates, and only built fleet Carriers like these in the 40s (one or two Maltas may have been laid down, and not designed warships this size since the 50s-60s), you could say never at this size, but we have done it. Those are my thoughts, and yours too are valid points. But let’s construct answers, that benefit the UK industry.

  18. I have seen first hand what massive job lay offs in the Steel,mining and shipbuilding industries have down to whole communities and it is not pleasant.

    I am supportive of these ships (and the whole fleet) being built in the UK and would go as far as stating these should be classified as Tax exempt for the purposes of fair competition.

    As I have said above – sequencing is the key to ensure the MOD can consistently spend £3bn pa on shipbuilding indefinitely.

    I do agree with the comment that the union needs skin in the game and should form a co-operative and am also surprised the SNP government has offered no inducement to help build the Frigate factory in order to 1. Secure the future of warship building on the Clyde and 2. Put pressure on the UK government to give orders to maintain and build upon this investment.

    For me there is no difference between Nissan Sunderland getting uk government help and the shipyards of the Clyde or anywhere else as long as we have a strategic industry which I believe we do.

    • Three big problems with that Pacman27. The first is financial and economic benefit. Income tax is devolved to Scotland, but National Insurance is not, nor is corporation tax. Also only 50% of VAT is devolved. So while the Scottish Government receives back somewhere around half the economic benefit to the economy, it’s the Treasury gets the other half.

      The second is also financial, there is a benefit to the defence budget of the UK, but Scotland pays for just 1/12th – 8.4%. So for its outlay in total, the Scottish Gvoernment gets considerably less than half in return. From the financial point of view therefore, the cost would ahve to be split proportionately between the UK Government and the Scottish Governmnet, just for the sake of a figure, 65% UK Government, 35% Scottish.

      The third is that defence is not devolved at all, it’s totally reserved to Westminster. So the Scottish Government is not involved in decideing where any contracts are involved.

      Ultimately the Scottish Government could invest £200 million, for nil return. They’d be rightly sacked next election! It’s why any such investment or cost underwriting would have to be shared fairly between the two governments, and I personallyu would be totally in favour of that.

      • But Scotland gets more funding than any other part of the UK and the Scottish Government can decided to support a key industry if it decides to.

        It has decided not to – £250m is not a lot over several years (for either government), but like on a lot of things the SNP make a lot of noise but are short on action.

        • It doesn’t work that way. The Scottish budget is roughly split into fiscal resource DEL which covers the running of the NHS, schools etc, day to day expenses, and the capital DEL to cover investment. Current capital DEL is around £2.8 billion, but was £2.7 bn in 2015-16. The Queensferry Crossing was just finished this year, and capital expenditure is used in full every year.

 (page 4).

          So slotting in £250 million would be a real burden, and would need to guarantee results of the investment, something that couldn’t be said for Scotstoun when in spite of building a shed, the UK Gov could completely cancel the 13 T26 frigates, or award contracts elsewhere – or just award a reduced order.

          On top of that the M8 improvement has been nearly completed, A9 is being dualled, that could be done faster with more expenditure and be a real boost to the economy, as could improving the A82. The SG has a ferry-building program, and also investing money in new rolling stock for the railways. Plus of course a new hospital last year, and a program for more builds in the NHS and schools. Plus the usual contingency, the SG has strictly limited and minimal borrowing powers, unlike the UK Gov which can set any target it likes.

          So it really isn’t as simple as saying the SG should take a chance and invest what would amount to 10% of its capital DEL in one year, 5% over 2 years, for potentially no return at all, just a new unused shed that would only be any good – with Independence!

          • Hi Dads Army

            1. You are highlighting other choices they have made.
            2. It could be spread over 5 or 10 years as a commitment to BAE to build it.
            3. This is what the UK government does for other industries (most notably the car industry which has little uk ownership).
            4. It shows that the SNP have an interest in these workers which from what I have seen to date they do not.

            The Scottish Govt can do this if they want to – just like the UK govt can fund defence better if it wants to. The fact is they choose not to support jobs in this industry and play politics by blaming the UK govt.

          • Hi Pacman27
            I think expecting the Scottish Government to pay or guarantee the £200 / £250 million for only a portion of the return in taxation and economic benefit, is as unfair as expecting the UK Government to fund the lot, with Scotland getting a portion of the economic benefit “Scot Free”, and even taking the risk of Scotland going Indy in 5 years and having their investment treated as “Thanks for that, very kind, it’s ours now”.

            The proper way I think would be proportionate, and with payback terms in case of Indy, depending on how many had been built, and what share of economic benefit achieved by both sides as an offset.

            Sadly the two governments don’t really get on well together!

            Meanwhile a UK shipbuilding opportunity goes to waste. Again.

    • Yes true. I am from Southampton and travelled up to Newcastle and Tyneside to see Swan Hunters in 2007, then 2008. It shook me terribly!

  19. Am impressed and support the logic and feeling in these comments. The FSS ships ought to be built in the UK. I have written to No 10 on the web site to express this view since it seems to me only the PM can override both the MOD and the Treasury. Maybe it will have some effect.

  20. He should have said “this approach ensures foreign shipbuilding is kept afloat whilst ensuring our own is kept on its deathbed”.

  21. No U.K. yards have bid because they waged a deliberate and organized war against British shipbuilding (and every other British industry) to the point where no large British shipbuilders exist anymore. They done this deliberately, they knew this would happen, that is why they did that. They can now give Navy order away to foreign countries forever and ever and ever, just like they wanted. They have deliberately made sure this happened. In every single one of our industries. It is sick, disgusting and a humiliation.

    It is not the job of our Navy to keep foreign shipbuilding alive and foreigners in well paid jobs whilst our own shipbuilding is kept tiny, deliberately uncompetitive and on its deathbed. This is a golden opportunity to genuinely revive British shipbuilding, which in spite of their lies, they DESPERATELY do not want.

    We should build a large enclosed dockhall, where large ships can be built in one place. It is not cost effective to have several tiny shipyards, incapable of building a ship building blocks and transporting them hundreds of miles, that is why they have DELIBERATELY made sure this has happened. When we have finished building these 3 large ships, which will be invaluable for British shipbuilding, we will have the facilities and experience to bid for cruise ships like France, Germany and Italy do. Oh, I forgot, they are deliberately waging war against British industry.

    We need big changes in Britain, we don’t want war deliberately waged against our industries. We don’t want to be the ONLY major European country with no industries worth speaking of. We want our industries rebuilt, at least one of them.

      • He probably means the UK government, eu and vested interests. Those interest probably make more money out of us by having stuff built abroad, while we still pay the same price and see areas destroyed. The MARS tankers should and could have been built here, instead, we saw BAE and BMT get into bed with a foreign shipbuilder. The ships did not seem to be cheaper and are late, we saw only a little tax return from this protected 160 million UK content bit. It is a big rip off, and we fall for it!

  22. The “national shipbuilding strategy” is a f!*&king joke. Many, many, many of our Navy’s ships, large ships at that, will be built in foreign countries, that is our “national shipbuilding strategy” is it? In spite of their lies they what they REALLY want is to deliberately keep British shipbuilding tiny and uncompetitive.

    Canada also recently released a national shipbuilding strategy, in it they say EVERY Navy ship from the biggest to the smallest will be built in Canada, and have invested in shipyards to make sure this happens. THAT is a national shipbuilding strategy. Ours is just a disguised continuation of the war being deliberately waged against British industry. It may as well not have even bothered being written. DISGUSTING.

  23. I have said in another thread what I think about the NSS. We have enough of a need to at least make us competitive – what we lack is consistency of ordering/scheduling and a commitment to fund £3bn of funding per annum.

    This is a win/win we get more for £3bn pa than we do with our current stop / start / indecisive progress and it gives industry a baseline from which they can build facilities and train a skilled workforce.

    Michael Porter (famed Harvard Academic) is very clear that in ordere to be successful in the export market you need to have a domestic market that gives you the scale to be competitive, without all orders from the UK Govt being given to UK shipyards this will simply not happen and the NSS will fail before it even starts.

    • Strong domestic market…exactly. My grandmother used to say blow your own trumpet because no-one else is going to blow it for you. Here’s hoping Hammond at the Treasury takes defence decisions like the engineer he is rather than as an accountant.

    • Also, in order to be successful in your own national market, you need the belief and desire from your own government without outside toxic influences killing your potential.

    • Pacman27. I borrowed, nicked a little bit from you about Micheal Porter for another website, called the conversation. Forgot about the writer of the competitive advantage of nations. Had to use it.

  24. Might be cheaper to build overseas but building at home keeps money in UK, helps balance of payments, reduces benefit costs, enables shipbuilders to thrive and bid for overseas work.

  25. By way of comparison – South Korea build circa 160-200 major ships per year, which is the UK’s maximum government requirement spread over 25 years and suggests that without deep government commitment the UK NSS is destined to fail.

    It does not make me happy to state this – but the facts are that we cannot compete on the proposed scale and that we really need to accept this will be a national enterprise that will self finance over time (25 years). It also needs the union in to collective bargain and get productivity to where it needs to be (not currently the workers fault I would say).

    This is basic economics – markets are driven by technical innovation (you are selling something the others dont have – or the best value, which is ultimately a cost proposition).

    I think the Spartan design for T31 has something about it (from a UK design perspective) and perhaps the UK coming out with the first light frigate/minehunter is a space we can take to the global stage.

    • I think South Korea is focused on China as it’s wage rate is possible the same as the UK’s. It was on a scale of 1-20, at 6-7 with Britain on 10 (Germany was 20) in 2007, and probably even closer to the UK now without the pound falling over that time. Yes, it depends on which ship types (existing and new) and how we embrace new tech. I don’t think we are looking for total dominance in world shipbuilding as in the previous centuries, and neither would we desire this I expect. But to start with all UK customer private and public money need to be built here, just for the tax reason alone. I don’t think the best value for those Tides was found in South Korea. We are not looking to just government requirement either, but a broader spectrum of ships and customer. German shipyard do not just build for the German government etc. But I take your point, if that was the case or only ambition of the UK NSS. I pray it is not, as we have much more potential.

      • I guess you can sell a great design too, in which we have many great design centres, but sadly builders from abroad get the benefit. More UK shipbuilder and design team (the ones not belonging to shipyards, like Barrow etc) is required.


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