In November 2019, the £1.5bn competition to build up to three Fleet Solid Support Ships was suspended, an update is due before the end of this year.
It is understood that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace halted the competitive tendering process because bidders were “not compliant” with cost.
The Ministry of Defence have provided an update on progress on various projects, this was done as a response from the Ministry of Defence to follow-up questions to the Defence Secretary following a session of the Defence Committee on the 23rd April.
A statement regarding the suspended Fleet Solid Support Ships competition reads as follows:
“Following the decision taken to cancel the competition in November 2019, the MOD has been considering the most appropriate way forward for the Fleet Solid Support ships, looking at all aspects of the programme, including the requirement, procurement approach, market analysis and platform options. This work is complex and also needs to consider wider reviews underway across the Department and Government, as well as any impact of Covid-19, all of which may impact on the timeframe for re-starting the competition.
We will therefore take the necessary time to ensure all of these aspects are thoroughly reviewed and considered before we restart the competition. Until this work has completed it is too early to speculate where these ships may be built or how the future procurement will be run. We expect to provide an update on progress in the Autumn.”
The National Audit Office recently released a report titled ‘Carrier Strike – Preparing for deployment’, the report examines the MoD’s management of the programme since 2017 and the risks towards achieving Carrier Strike’s full capabilities, delays to the Fleet Solid Support Ship programme of between 18-36 months are posing risks to regenerating UK carrier strike capability say the NAO, you can read more about that here.
The Ministry of Defence earlier said in a statement:
“It is clear that the current approach will not deliver the requirement. We are now considering the most appropriate way forward for the procurement project.”
The UK Defence Journal believes this work should stay in the UK.
Recently, Harland & Wolff joined forces with Navantia to form ‘Team Resolute’, a shipbuilding collaboration which will bid for the Fleet Solid Support Ship programme to be built in Belfast.
As part of this, Harland and Wolff has signed an exclusive Teaming Agreement with Navantia, with BMT participating as an exclusive subcontractor in the Programme.
“Team Resolute combines 159 years of shipbuilding experience at one of the UK’s biggest shipyards, including the two largest dry docks in Europe, with unrivalled auxiliary design experience from UK designer BMT and a world-leading auxiliary shipbuilding track record from Navantia. As set out in the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy, the UK Government is seeking to strengthen the UK’s sovereign shipbuilding capability and prosperity, while driving cost and production efficiencies. Team Resolute offers a low risk and value for money UK solution for FSS based on recent and current experience designing and building comparable ships for other navies.”
If successful in the bid, the firms say that Team Resolute will inject significant investment into local economies across the whole of the UK through ship design and construction.
The firms claim their bid has the following benefits for the UK:
- Prosperity for the UK. It will re-establish a skills base for UK shipbuilding in Northern Ireland, strengthening the UK’s sovereign shipbuilding capability and economic prosperity. Transfer of Navantia’s cutting edge digital shipyard knowledge to Harland & Wolff will support the modernisation and availability of this UK sovereign asset for FSS and beyond.
- UK industrial strength for a UK FSS programme. It will provide the UK Government with the sovereign industrial capability to make FSS a successful UK programme. It will use a world beating British design from BMT, build at Harland & Wolff’s facilities in Northern Ireland, and incorporate wider UK fabrication, materials and equipment.
- A formidable British design pedigree. BMT is the only company to have been involved in the design of QEC and MARS Fleet Tanker Programme. This experience provides the best possible foundation for delivering an FSS design that will comply with the project requirements and provide the capability necessary to complete the Carrier Strike Group.
- The ideal partnership for assured FSS delivery. BMT’s unique design experience will reduce development time. Harland & Wolff’s and Navantia’s joint unparalleled dry dock capacity will minimise the FSS ships entry to service for the Carrier Strike Group. Navantia’s risk management experience with Australian and Spanish Navies will assure delivery to cost, time and quality.
John Wood, CEO of InfraStrata, said:
“This partnership has the capability and credibility to disrupt the UK defence shipbuilding duopoly that currently exists, providing much needed competition in the defence sector to ensure value for money and guaranteed delivery. Team Resolute will create a more level playing field when competing for upcoming defence contracts. It will also provide Harland & Wolff with a strong proposition to tender for contracts in in the oil & gas, cruise & ferry, commercial and renewable sectors. We have always selected our partners carefully. In Navantia, we see a long term partner not only within the defence sector – we are also in advanced discussions for further teaming agreements in relation to offshore wind farms.”
— John Wood (@JohnWoo64494325) May 26, 2020
Abel Méndez, Director of International Defence & Security, Spokesperson of Navantia commented:
“It is clear that under a new management team, Harland & Wolff is a shipyard that is forward-thinking, agile and ready to do business. We are excited about this new collaboration and the opportunities it will bring for both partners.”
Rob Teasdale, Business Development Director of BMT, said:
“BMT is excited to be part of Team Resolute with leading shipyards Harland & Wolff and Navantia to provide a dedicated partnership for UK’s Future Solid Support (FSS) ships. This new cooperation for Team Resolute, under which the three companies will work together on the FSS project, will lend our globally renowned ship design capabilities on a world leading capability for UK’s defence and national security requirements. We look forward to working with Harland & Wolff to modernise and strengthen the UK’s sovereign shipbuilding capability. The combination of BMT’s experience across the maritime sector and our heritage in ship design is the ideal pedigree to bring large and challenging projects to successful fruition. With the reopening of the contest anticipated later this year, BMT stands ready with Harland & Wolff and Navantia to offer a modern approach to the FSS program that will contribute to sovereign shipbuilding and prosperity for the United Kingdom for years to come.”