Unions have told Ministers that shipbuilding in Britain could face multiple yard closures in 2019 if they continue to use European regulations to avoid building support vessels in the UK.

Minister for Defence Procurement, Stewart Andrew MP, who invited competitive tenders from shipyards in Spain, Italy, Japan and South Korea last Friday has told MPs and campaigners that the MoD will not classify the vessels as warships, which would guarantee their design, manufacture and maintenance in Britain.

Instead they say the ships are subject to EU state aid funding rules (Article 346 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union) which say that commercial ships must be open to international competition.

What is Article 346?

EU law requires most government contracts to be procured via an open, competitive process. The main EU legislation in the defence domain is the Defence and Security Directive 2009/81/EC, transposed into UK law by Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011.13

However, Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) provides for an exemption to the procurement rules where a country considers it to be necessary for national security reasons: “any Member State may take such measures as it considers necessary for the protection of the essential interests of its security which are connected with the production of or trade in arms, munitions and war material”. Article 346 refers to a list drawn up in 1958 by the Council of Ministers of products to which the provisions

At a meeting with national officials and representatives from yards who are either closing or under threat, the unions’ anger was expressed that UK shipyards are being forced to compete against shipyards who receive direct or indirect state subsidy.

They are calling on the Ministers to apply for a derogation under existing EU regulations on national security grounds. Independent research, conducted by Defence Analysis, shows that £7.5bn worth of contracts for fleet auxiliary ships, minesweepers, survey ships and landing docks could potentially be put out to international competition by 2030 under the current plans.

The support vessels, known as the Future Solid Support (FSS) programme, are designed to supply the Royal Navy in all conditions, tendering especially to the needs of the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. The vessels are armed with self-defence weapons.

The carrier programme has already seen 900 jobs threatened this year. The closure of Appledore Shipyard, operated in Devon by Babcock, was announced recently and the Rosyth Dockyard, also operated by Babcock, in Scotland is facing the threat of hundreds of job losses. Workers at Cammell Laird on Merseyside are on strike after a third of the skilled workforce were told they were to be made redundant.

Ian Waddell, General Secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said:

“Ministers have hidden behind EU regulations to avoid building these ships in Britain, even though our yards are world-class. British shipbuilding will become the first strategically important industry to fail because of Brexit. Ironically, it is the communities in Brexit voting areas like Devon, Tyneside and Merseyside who are being hardest hit. Ministers say they are starting to listen because of the strength of this campaign and because they’re getting the same message from multiple sources and that it is to be welcomed. European Member States including France, Germany, Italy and Spain all build support ships domestically because they are classed as military ships for national security reasons.

It is through the looking glass stuff when these same countries are invited by our own Government to bid for combat support ships armed with anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopters because the Government says they are commercial ships. By simply applying for a derogation under EU rules we can build these ships in Britain and safeguard a supply chain which extends to some 30,000 skilled workers in every part of the UK. It beggars belief that instead, Defence Ministers are prepared to sacrifice an iconic industry on the altar of competition, pretending their hands are tied by the EU while calling for Brexit.”

Overseas shipyards who have been invited to tender for the FSS programme include:

  • Fincantieri: 70% owned by Fintecna S.p.A the Italian owned investment agency
  • Navantia: 100% owned by the Spanish government
  • Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME): received a  USD6billion rescue package from the Korean Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of Korea

Recently, former shipyard worker turned MP for Glasgow North East Paul Sweeney has criticised the Government for failing to restrict the tendering for Fleet Solid Support Ships to the UK.

During a recent debate on UK sovereign capability, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Shipbuilding & Ship Repair Vice-Chair Paul Sweeney pointed out that despite claims to the contrary from some corners, the UK was well within its rights to protect this tendering process from international competition:

“In the context of major shipyard closures and significant downsizing, whether that is at Rosyth or Appledore, it is bizarre that the Government are quite happy to tender contracts overseas in international open competition. Under article 346 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, the Government could quite easily designate the industry as UK protected. It is entirely at their discretion. Any notion that their hands are tied is bogus.

They could do that, smooth the production cycles and build a firm and stable footprint for UK shipyards, which would enable them to get match fit and then go out into the world and compete effectively for other orders. That is exactly what they do in Italy with Fincantieri, and what they do in France with DCNS. It is exactly what happens in Germany.

I do not understand why other European Union member states can achieve the same objectives much more effectively than us, but we are so holier than thou that it hurts when it comes to the zealous application of these EU rules and we seem to undermine our own industrial base and our prosperity as a result, meaning that communities are broken and skills are lost. Ultimately, we undermine our objective of building a more resilient and effective industrial base to serve our defence industry and, potentially, commercial spin-offs.”This was also highlighted during the debate in this exchange, prompted by Stuart Andrew, Minister for Defence Procurement, saying the following:

“It is not a warship by definition, for the simple reason that the definition is based on the UK’s requirement to retain the ability to design, build and integrate frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers for reasons of national security, ensuring that the complex nature of the construct is an important part of it from the very beginning. We will continue to have this argument—unions are coming to meet me very soon to discuss it.”

Sweeney responded:

“The Minister’s last remark about the need to maintain the UK’s sovereign capability to build complex warships being arbitrarily restricted to frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers, the only reason we can build those ships in the UK today is that the last Labour Government placed an order for an auxiliary ship, the RFA Wave Ruler, at Govan shipyard in 1999, which enabled that yard to continue in operation.

Also, there are five River class batch 2 patrol vessels being built at Govan to sustain production there until the Type 26 kicks in. By utilising those less complex, but none the less complex, warships to smooth the build cycle, we can retain the skills, infrastructure and critical mass we need to build complex warships including frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers. 

We must look beyond that arbitrary restriction and maximise the purchasing power of the Ministry of Defence to deliver UK sovereign capability in the long term. We should broaden our horizons.”

Two major unions, GMB and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), also published reports outlining why they believe the ships should be classified as warships and why they should be competed domestically. The Unions arguments can be summarised as:

  • The FSS should be seen as warships. They are armed and take part in counter-piracy and counter-narcotic missions;
  • The Government’s commitment to revitalising domestic naval shipbuilding (as espoused in the National Shipbuilding Strategy) will only be achievable with a steady stream of orders;
  • Building the FSS in the UK will help protect the UK shipbuilding industry, protect jobs and retain skills: GMB estimates up to 6,500 jobs could be created or secured, including 1,805 shipyard jobs;
  • Rosyth shipyard will have a gap between the completion of HMS Prince of Wales (the second aircraft carrier) in 2019 and the expected refit of HMS Queen Elizabeth (the first aircraft carrier) in 2030, and FSS work could keep the shipyard operational in between these dates;
  • The UK will financially benefit from returns to the Treasury in the form of taxes and national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments: GMB estimates £285m of the estimated £1bn contract could be returned to taxpayers this way; CSEU estimates 20% of the contract cost could be returned to the Treasury;
  • The Government should factor in the revenue that could be returned to the Treasury when scoring bids between domestic suppliers and foreign competitors;
  • There isn’t a level playing field as, the CSEU argues, “many foreign yards are either state owned, or receive significant direct or indirect subsidy… UK yards do not benefit in this way and are therefore at an unfair disadvantage.”

The Trades Union Congress has also assessed the Article 346 exemption argument and argues the Government “has the sole right to determine” what its essential national security interests are. The TUC claims “other European nations have used the exemption to place orders for similar support ships with their own shipyards since the Directive was introduced.”

December this year will see the formal issue of documentation inviting bids for the design and build contract and in 2020, the contract for design and build is to be awarded.

97 COMMENTS

  1. Well if we just gave it to a UK yard they would just charge what they wanted so we need a competition.
    I do hope the UK consortium gets it though so we must factor in that many foreign yards are subsidised, a bit of analysis required rather than just taking the lowest offer.

    • Agree with you. We need to understand what a competitive price is. We also need to realise subsidising our yards with uncompetitive prices will not lead them to new business or export orders. The result will be less value for money. I don’t subscribe to just because everyone else does it then so should we.

      • Yes should be the total cost for instance how much tax revenue will we recover if built in the UK what costs in benefits if not etc,the MOD just wants the lowest hit to its budget so the Treasury and other dept’s have to compensate them if needed.What’s best for the UK as a whole should be the priority.After these ships there is a requirement to replace the Amphibs there should be some overriding strategy or is this to much to ask.

      • It is quite possible in a perverse way that the UK subsidized the building of the Tides for not £452m (which coupled with UK 160m content was too much), but 550m for just the build of the hulls making the price £610m or around £700m. The £452m or £550m, assuming nearly 100% could have been UK sourced, means so much tax back was not realized. Tell me what is value for money. I don’t know. The whole point in the original Sir John Parker report was about, as long as the UK win these orders, it must be seen that profits get put back into modernizing facilities and people as a condition.

    • No No No. A UK yard would not charge what they wanted. This is not BAE monopoly wanting yards to build destroyer or frigate hulls (less hulls they could not care less about, this is what it looks like) to fit their expensive systems that profit them. ONS or NAO can estimate ship costs/prices and new technology can measure the cost of building a ship wherever. But you factor in subsidised capital, energy disadvantage UK firms pay, plus, not 20% to the treasury but more likely 30 to 50% (Turning the Tide) to give the net figure. So if the UK price is 1.3ish billion for 3 ships to the Japan price of 1 billion, the best value is by far the UK price!

    • Respectfully I disagree. There still be competition but it would be between the UK yards.

      This is one of many industries that will go belly up if we’re not careful. It needs to be protected. If we don’t look after our own shipyards and rely on foreign ones to build our ships then why would any other country ever come to us to build theirs? If we build our own and the world sees what we can do, then it’s othercnationsxthat will be buying ships from our shipyards. We’ll sell more exports and thus we make more money for the country. It’s a win win.

      HMG and MoD should be prioritising our own industries.

      • I am afraid this is against the Tory belief system, we British wallow in our pragmatism yet our government operates radical policies.I doubt any country in the world makes much out of building ship’s this is not a reason not to do it.It’s pointless criticising BAE for wanting to make a profit that is their purpose rather its the MOD’s fault for not ensuring they get value for money.

    • They are not commercial ships.

      This sentence is absolute Bullsh!t

      “EU state aid funding rules (Article 346 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union) which say that commercial ships must be open to international competition”

      346 DOES NOT say that at all. What it says is that contracts where there’s security implications, such as complex warships, can be kept at home, and not tendered out.

    • The latest story from the EU is that they have let the French off for breaking GDP deficit rule, even though they will / have transgressed by some margin. The are going after the Italians for breaking the same rules by a smaller amount. Of course the EU are fair. 🙂

      • I’m calling BS on this as well.

        The report you read was from 4 years ago. France’s deficit to GDP is currently 2.6% So under the 3% max.

        BUT. Their public debt is sitting at 96% of GDP, where the EU max is 60%

        (these are figures from today, 14/12/2018)

  2. The idea these ships should go to foreign builders is unforgivable if there is capacity in the UK. To class these vessels as not warships is utter nonsense. In a wartime alert, phalanx and missile carrying helicopters could be deployed from their decks, immediately making them legitimate military targets. There is no guarantee, the overall quality of build will be any better than the UK, as discovered, with the Korean built supply ships.

    • The second stores are loaded with the purpose of delivering to a warship they become a legit target.
      IMO until the idiots in BAE who tried to pull the wool over the navy acceptance teams eyes on Forth are named, fired and every member of quality assurance team are interviews on how they called to spot even 20% of those snags, we cannot except there workmanship therefore they should be banned from all future tenders.
      HMG have consistently awarded builds to BAE shipbuilding despite delays and over runs on the last project. At what point do we stop rewarding poor performance.

  3. Once again, HMG more interested in sating their EU masters than supporting UK industry.

    The logic that your own capability closes yet other nations do not due to EU rules is baffling.

    As is all the roads in my home town falling apart while tens of billions disappears oversees, part of which goes on lots of nice new road infrastructure in Poland. Before anyone asks I’ve a lot of time for the Poles by the way…

    It really makes you wonder where HMG loyalties lie, big business and global corporations or their own industrial capability. Answers on a postcard with this ongoing brexit fiasco.

    Having said that.

    My only concern as has been raised here many times, despite the advantages of home build, is the direct impact on a cash strapped MOD. Another deliberate HMG policy.
    If they are built far cheaper overseas than our cash hungry industries can offer can you blame the MOD?

    HMG should guarantee to reimburse Mod for the extra it will cost. Then build them at home.

    • Danielle It’s “Big Business and Global Corporations” Always has been. Oh and Their Pensions and Knighthoods truth be Known. And bugger the low life scum that actually make them Rich and fight their bloody Wars.
      ( Am I wrong though ? )

  4. a good and simple solution is to wait until after March 2019 to order them, the EU would still complain however there would be no appetite to take it any further as the EU would only be alienating themselves.

  5. Article 346 part b is the key bit: ” any Member State may take such measures as it considers necessary for the protection of the essential interests of its security which are connected with the production of or trade in arms, munitions and war material; such measures shall not adversely affect the conditions of competition in the internal market regarding products which are not intended for specifically military purposes”. Other European nation do and quite reasonably can classify fleet support assets as essential interests for security based upon this article, they are not twisting the rules to suit them.
    I believe in blame where it’s due, and the EU is not perfect by any means. But the fault here is with the UK government and their choice to classify these vessels as commercial, not the EU for their rules. The rule, in this instance at least, is perfectly reasonable.
    For the life of me I have no idea why the UK government is not using this article to build the ships in the UK, when it makes complete sense to do so for all the reasons given by the unions (can’t believe I’m agreeing with a union..!). But don’t scapegoat the EU for it (on this subject at least), hold the government to account!

  6. Give these to UK yards. At what price and under what conditions, what delivery clauses? What if there late who pay etc. It alright bowing to the unions but they’re political organisations who don’t have the MoD or their customers interest at heart. I feel there’s a big risk that the yards then sit back don’t sign up to improving productivity and efficiency to be more competitive, there then back at the governments door demanding more work because they can’t win any other orders.

    I’m 100% for UK industry, my livelihood depends on it, Because of this it needs to be competitive long term.

    Its conveniently forgotten a UK yard competed against foreign yards for the polar research ship and won, there zero evidence to suggest the UK would place order oversea if there’s a competitive UK bid. Surely we should have the competition and weigh up the results, you don’t have to take the lowest price. I#ve run tenders myself and the selection board have picked the highest price because its the best spec and quickest to deliver.

    • You can always tell who the remain voters are with their snide digs to leave voters.

      Grow up and move on, all this negative bullshit from both sides really isn’t helping things.

      Back to the matter at hand, I say block build them in yards across the UK, assemble in Rosyth. Foreign orders worked well for the Tides and Magpie to an extent, but I don’t agree with them. We should always put our own industries first.

      • Andrew R, Grow Up X’s 2. If you Dislike the Democratic Process, may I suggest you go live in Russia. Or put another way “Get Out, Shut Up”. Idiot.

    • Just love independence, as George Washington did. Our declaration is being turned into a farce and f**ked up be fanatical remain politicians. They have caused all of this.

    • No Andrew.

      We are mightily pissed off that crap like this happens and our shipyards and other industry go to the wall with EU competition rules.

      And I’m not a moron thank you. You know nothing of me.

      Having the wish for ones country to ACTUALLY BE AN INDEPENDENT NATION rather than in a political union is not in any shape or form moronic.

      If you think it is you’re in a more ****** up world than me.

      • Absolutely Daniele, spot on. I fear the pro EU element within our society has carfully worked behind the scenes to de-rail BREXIT.

        My position after the referendum would have been to play hardball with the EU.

        State “we will leave under WTO rules, unless you can offer us a better option”, making it clear that a democratic mandate had been clearly demanded by the vote … But, we obviously want a close working relationship with our European friends.

        Our actual approach …. on our knees, begging for forgiveness and asking what the EU wanted us to do …. Pathetic and no wonder they shafted us over a barrel!

        • Sadly you’re correct John.

          Brexit is being sabotaged by 3 parties.

          1. The government themselves with their deliberately bad “deal” that even Brexiteers oppose, created by civil servants at No 10 behind the brexit secretaries back!

          2. HM opposition in Parliament, who OVERWHELMINGLY voted to give a referendum to the public and are now resisting it with every step. Even if May came back with an amazing deal many would not support it.

          The hypocrisy of this when over 400 constituencies voted leave is obvious. Their own MPs are not following the mandate of their own constituents!

          3. The EU itself. They have dragged this process through the mud, breaching their own article 50. All they want is money. Allies? Really? You don’t treat friends this way.

          And result, in my opinion, Brexit is finished. And democracy in this country has gone.

          If civil war erupts in this country and Parliament is burned to the ground I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.

          • I have to agree Daniele, the democratic process has been deliberately frustrated, subverted and sabotaged in a truly insidious manner.
            It’s insulting to anyone who truly believes in the democratic process, no matter which way you voted in the referendum.

            If this is carried to it’s logical conclusion, then we will end up cancelling article 50.

      • I’m not going to lie, I voted remain, but I’m not happy about this current Brexit deal and I’m not surprised you aren’t either. It’s not a good result for Britain at all, and that’s what matters at the moment- in full agreement with you there.
        As I said above though, don’t go looking to blame the EU for where we’re building those fleet support ships. The clause in article 346 doesn’t go that far, which is why EU countries have manufactured their own similar vessels. It is down to our own government’s classification of them as commercial vessels, which is pretty ridiculous. Our national security is fully reliant on us being able to resupply our forces globally, so those ships are definitely military assets! I’d never be one to say the EU is perfect, but on this one I think it’s our own government’s fault…

    • Good God yes. It is a test of sanity. And if you think anything positive about it well let’s shouldn’t be let out on your own.

  7. Building these types of ships here was never a f**king issue until eu rules and asking about what is a warship and warship like came into being during the Labour years with eu empire.

    • These ships were designed for the military purpose of replenishing naval warships. They are armed, have special communications capabilities, and will carry RN helicopters at least part of the time. Thus they should be exempted.

      If the unions want the sips to be built in the UK, will they agree to wages that companies can make a profit from?

      Lucky that J. Corbyn isn’t PM now. He would say screw profits, only jobs matter.

  8. My fear is this. Has there been a change in time of ships order to time of ships put in commission, as a later date for the orders but same time for ships becoming active, which could lead to UK shipbuilders saying we cannot do this, so the government is vindicated in not believing in UK shipbuilding can deliver?

    What commercial activity will these Fleet Solid Support Ships undertake?

    Also, I feel Dr. Paul Stott has a point. The UK government looking back in history, even though times have changed, feel shipbuilding like this (not just frigates and destroyers) is back to the bad old days, which were years ago. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater and the fact that the UK government does not want to see a new UK shipbuilding sector: https://campus.recap.ncl.ac.uk/Panopto/Pages/Embed.aspx?id=f4cfb094-9a7c-4228-85f2-84917925648f&v=1.
    If that’s the case, there is no National Shipbuilding Strategy, and it’s difficult (impossible and that’s why many voted to leave this despot empire) to have one while subservient to this eu empire anyway.
    Our biggest obstacle is our own government! Why vote liblabcon I will never know.

    How many more aircraft carriers are we going to build, as it seems the ministry feels these are the ships we build and nothing else as if we build them on a regular basis. Have we got 2 more carriers coming along? More destroyers? More frigates than we know of?

    It’s not just the COn gov that has hidden behind eu rules but the previous labour one too when the MARs tanker was ordered. All these Uk industries killing political parties have the same policy because they follow in most, eu directives! But unlike most, we follow and abide stupidly by them!

    • I re-read all of this before posting and I did not write COn or MARs tanker and Uk, but con gov and MARs tankers and UK. Why does this happen?

  9. Price! Price! Price! It is time everyone realizes that the PRICE one pays to design, build and supply any military equipment is PEANUTS against the through life PRICE of ownership, operation, maintenance and disposal. It is time our our Military industry started collaborating on building this country a force that is capable of doing the job in the air, ground and sea and provide proper whole of life support. To do this we need our own government to provide stimulus in this area to ensure contracts are awarded to Groups of UK companies that can provide this sort of support to the country and economy. Every contract we sign with the Americans and others sees Billions Of Pounds leaving our shores during the life of a contract. We have the brains why not the will?

  10. The govt has prioritised unit cost price and applied EU rules while ignoring the wider benefits to the UK economy and defence capability of investing in the UK. The first 100 of Ajax’s ,a 1990’s Spanish / Austrian design will be entirely built by General Dynamics at the American company’s Spanish plant, using Swedish steel. The remaining 489, nope not built in S. Wales, all the hulls will still be still fabricated in Spain, still with Swedish steel. Since 2010 EVERY major defence program has been placed with foreign firms. For the army, 900 heavy trucks and 2700 light troop jeeps bought from Oshkosh in America. Uniforms and boots from Germany, Croatia, China and Turkey. 32 helicopters from Germany/France, while helicopter plants in Somerset are shut and work moved to Italy. The Navy, 4 support ships from Korea. 5 new patrol vessels, built with Swedish steel. The new Trident subs will use French steel and the Type26 frigates will use 20,000 tons of EU steel. The UK government both Labour and Tory, have FAILED to support our defence and steel industries. It obeyed EU Procurement and State Aid Rules while EVERY other EU country has cheated. Unlike the UK they have maintained THEIR industries. The French, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish armies all drive trucks built by their OWN industries. The UK stuck to the EU rules and now drives 7200 German trucks and marches on German boots. The award of the £2 billion contract to Austria / Germany’s MAN for 8000 vehicles, rather than award the tender to LDV is an example of the govt following the EU’s Procurement Rules. The vehicles would have been built in Birmingham and the programme would have provided work for 140 other UK suppliers. Instead it went to MAN/VW. Much of the UK defence capability and with it skilled jobs have been destroyed obeying the EU.

    • Yes. In a smaller way, how is it that every time when RN Ships are scrapped Turkey wins the bid? It’s all set up that way and if people cannot se this or wish to not realize this, we are screwed! I’m sure if Liberty Steel UK or Uk scrapper supply to UK secondary steel making producers win scrappings and then recycle to produce semi-finished products, it is more worthwhile.

      • The vehicle in LDV’s proposal was a design by the American company Stevenson that was American Army specifications. Blair award the contract to MAN/VW because he wanted to show he was a ” good Euroupean”. The loss of the the contract ended truck manufacture in the UK.

  11. If anyone goes on the turning the Tide doc, you will find the pro give our contacts away are libdems and pro remainers, who probably live in very safe areas. These people are relevant but less so than people who make the difference in building the ships! Check out Turning the Tide. Our decliners are the libdem or any pro remainer people. They will decline the UK: http://www.gmb.org.uk/turning-the-tide.pdf or Team provider https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=2ahUKEwjl8IaHqqDfAhWVtXEKHc9QDX8QFjAAegQICBAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Flibrary.prospect.org.uk%2Fid%2F2018%2FJune%2F26%2FCSEU-Report-Delivering-Fleet-Solid-Support-Ships%3Fdisplay%3Dpreferred&usg=AOvVaw18rXktkhVJi5SxVEHc1SXP and :https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-national-shipbuilding-strategy-an-independent-report which is not the Gavin Williamson strategy. Read all three reports.The read the Government strategy which you can find yourselves.

  12. All people who support giving these ships away are Libdem and pro remainers loo at the table on turning-the-tide, then look at the Report-Delivering-Fleet-Solid-Support-Ships and Sir John Parker report: uk-national-shipbuilding-strategy-an-independent-report. Not the actaul underminig strategy by the MOD and Williamson. A shipbuilding strategy is not about just building warships only!

    • At last. I am allowed to post the info but you have to look it up to see for yourselves. I have everything but could not post it.

  13. I think the major investors & people in government are globalist free traders, so would rather send the work to where labour costs are much cheaper(better for their offshore accounts to benefit from) rather than doing the proper & patriotic thing in maintaining the shipbuilding capabilities we’d need to survive as an Island trading nation.
    Seems as though someone has been plotting how to make us militarily incompetent, the way HMG policies have worked out.

    • Hang on, I can hear some distant chanting…..can’t quite make it out. Oh of course, its the Civil Service training school going through their naming of parts. Arse…elbow…elbow… arse…arse arse…elbow arse!!

  14. For me this is a key indicator of why people are disillusioned with the EU.

    Our (very poor) politicians have been blaming the EU for their failures for the last 40 years. Is the EU terrible, no, has it been beneficial to the uk probably yes. But our politicians hide behind it and blame it for everything.

    Germany and France are part of most of the platforms that we are and the regularly dont meet or uphold agreements they have signed up for. It’s so common you can all insert your favourite, from NATO, Eurofighter, or even the first country to breach the Euro limits (Germany 2 weeks after launch).

    Once again, our politicians are letting us down, and they hide behind the EU as if it is forcing them to do this, it is not. It is as conscious a decision as is closing our heavy industries down was.

    There is enough requirement from the RN (80 large ships and 400+ small vessels every 25 years) to provide the baseline for a uk shipbuilding industry. It is a government choice whether they want that to happen.

    We are just being let down by a set of very poor leaders unfortunately

    • Couldn’t agree more. The EU has been blamed for just about all the woes of Britain since Mrs T. The actuality is a gross failure of political leadership in this country. Short term planning; bouncing from one perceived crisis to the next, and no clear idea of where our best interests lie. Mr Blobby could have done a better job! The present mess is the latest example of political ineptitude ….the rest of the world is laughing at us. What a crowd of craps!

  15. Irrespective of who builds the things they are not and will not be classed as warships.

    If they are classed as warships all sorts of other issues will raise there heads further down the line.
    RFAs, because they are not warships, are manned for the most part by civilians…if they are classed as warships you will need a military crew.
    If we call them warships, build them as such in the UK and then change the designation then standby for a law suit because you fiddled the EU ruling on offering the job to foreign yards by calling them warships.
    Warship build standards are considerably higher ( Hence expensive) than commercial builds. Ocean proved that. Built to commercial standards the RN spent a fortune upgrading it to the required Milspecs.
    Warships are not insured. The MOD takes the hit on cost should they be damaged or that they damage anothe rship. I am unsure if that is the case with RFAs …anyone know?? That could be another factor.

    As for steel…No country in the world makes all of the steel, of every required type, that is used exclusively in that country. Steel companies specialise in specific types of steel and produce only that type. UK companies do not produce the steel needed for warship builds except for some specialist types of steel used in smaller quantities. However UK companies do produce steel that is exported for use elsewhere for other products. Are people suggesting we forgo steel exports to say Sweden who took around 71 K tonnes of Stainless Steel from the UK to instead make 70k odd tonnes of steel for ships?

    • “I am unsure if that is the case with RFAs …anyone know??”
      Have a look at pics of RFAs
      On the stern you have the ships name plus the port of registry
      To be registered (Lloyds) you have to be insured

      • I think you are confusing the purpose of Lloyds Registry with that of Lloyds of London. The ship is registered with Lloyds Registry who inspect and certify its build standards and continuing maintenance to ensure that a ship meets the minimum standards required by those who may wish to insure it, whether the ship is then insured (on a market such as that offered by Lloyds) is then up to the owner. In the case of the RFA the ship’s are not insured but Lloyds Registry is used as a benchmark to provide assurance of quality/safety.

    • Regarding steel…. Gunbuster is 100 % correct. I work in the industry and the amount of NAB, PB102, Stainless and Monel steels that get exported under Defence Standards registered in the U.K. by far outstrips the commercial grades used on hulls and super-structures, at least in terms of profit / turnover!

      Certify a grade of steel to a Def Stan and watch the price of the component increase 1000% or more.

      If you saw the prices charged to Defence sub-contractors who then supply to BAE & Babcock etc who then in turn supply to the MOD your toes would curl… each sub tier adds a % / burden to the cost… Crazy money really.

  16. Simple. If U K provides best design at best price and it has a yard to build the ships the U K wins. Otherwise it doesn’t. Having said that the government need to ensure strict price and time penalties .

  17. Exactly. And I find it odd that the private sector businesses that run these yards have been completely left out of the discussion so far. Ultimately it is their responsibility to sustain these yards, their responsibility to produce attractive products at competitive prices and their responsibility to ensure they have more than one customer. These are not ‘nice to have’ criteria outside of defence and the foreign yards are in the competition presumably because they’ve been more successful at this than British shipyards. The MOD has single sourced to these yards for years, but we still seem to be in a position where the world’s third largest defence corporation reckons it ‘can’t afford’ to sustain its operations without the British taxpayer funding everything.

  18. The idea that by leaving the EU we suddenly become a free country, unencumbered by regulations, is as daft as it is wrong. Fact is, we are part of an international economic order; being in the EU gives us advantages as well as disadvantages. If we leave the EU (and that’s a bloody big if) we will still be subject to restrictions, trade laws, tariffs etc if we want to grow our economy. The only real freedom we will have is the freedom to be poor!

      • There is poor….I’m British and work for Sports Direct, or there is poor….I’m Vietnamese and work for Nike. People still do well in this country compared to a lot of others. However, the gap between the Rees Mogg stratum and the average Joe is widening alarmingly. How is it that our MPs are allowed massive money making opportunities….about time there was some sort of job description other than ‘nose in trough’.

        • Hmmmm, There Is Poor, as In I don’t work and sleep rough( Country non Applicable ) and there Is Rich, as in Absolutely Bloody Stinkingly Dripping In Wealth ( Virtually every Country on Earth ). The Vast Majority of us are poor and the small Minority are not. I’d like to see a Reset. Interesting to see the Rich seem to have the greatest Voice over Brexit despite the Majority Vote.

          • Yeah sure…many of those that don’t work and sleep rough are ex-military with PTSD or addiction problems…but usually both. If I might say, this is a national disgrace…we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Who has the greatest voice over Brexit…well give the country the chance to answer that with a second referendum. This time, people will be better versed in what really is at stake! Not just some twat’s racial prejudice.

  19. Herodotus, lol, Best of Three ? ffs.
    Oh and, It’s not just ex forces mate. There are many homeless from all walks of life but they are Invisible to those living In Ivory Towers.

  20. Seems to me the issue with the Future FSS is simple. If the gov is insisting on outsourceing the
    build of these ship and are currently using EU rules to justify sending the order possibly over seas. By the time the order is issued for the build of these vessels the UK will no longer be part of the EU. So in my simplistic world that means these rules will no longer apply due to Brexit and no longer being a member of the EU. Hence they can then give the order to a UK yard. Best option would be to follow the Aircraft Carrier process in building the components in yards around the UK, Shipping them to Rosyth for assembly. It seems ridiculous to have invested all that time and money into building up Rosyth to just to close it all down or allow it to run down loosing all that experience and talent

  21. The unions are doing what they paid for, which is to try and protect their workers, they don’t care about what is good or bad for the company or the UK. Unfortunately this is what killed the UK car builders etc and why i prefer the workers council model over unions. However unions clearly are needed at times. If it was promised to be a UK build, the Scottish unions would be protesting against English yards being able to tender…oh wait they are with the frigates.

    2-3 ships is not going to suddenly change noncompetitive yards to competitive, even if the UK subsidized 100% of the build, it would require a build in the dozens to do that, so lets put that topic to one side. We need to stop looking at the ideal world and focus on the reality of the world.

    I agree the treasury should agree to hand over whatever tax revenue a UK yard would generate and make the decisions fair, but that wont’ happen, government departments are all fighting over each other to have the most money, so they can build their empires, the same way that the army/navy/airforce all fight each other for money rather than focus on the greater needs. Again real world vs ideal world.

    What puzzles me is the price, it seems way too high for a support vessel

    • The price.

      The usual phenomena Steve. Home build. Eye watering price.

      Why?

      And what does it mean for a cash strapped MOD with assets getting forever fewer.

    • Don’t forget the unions are also political doing what ever they can to have pop at a non labour government.

      The problem is way more complex than price and tax revenue returned. If we save 300m building overseas and invest that in something that’s will return 1b then that’s better for the UK, especially if that 1b comes from exports and creates high productivity jobs.

      The chances are that even if you invest the extra money have these built in the UK the workforce will buy foreign goods so any benefit is short lived. I don’t see the union demanding their members buy UK only goods that only seem to apply to tax payer money.

      • Err…I remember plenty of union pop shots at Labour Governments. Barbara Castle’s ‘In place of strife’ was rejected by the unions and rubbished by Jim Callaghan. Jim was hoisted by his own petard when it came back to bight him on the arse during ‘the winter of discontent.’ Labour lost power to Thatcher as a result….turkeys voting for Christmas!

    • Don’t understand why the tankers and solid supply vessels could not have been merged to build a small depot-type ship. Fewer hulls overall, but larger, and each would be capable of all-round support, greater coverage , fewer overall complement. You would still need support tankers.

  22. The civilian RFA v military ship ownership is quite complex, some of which discussed above, one area not mentioned is the UNCLOS aspects of warship free passage and transits, in particular there are world abiding agreements on how many warships can visit certain countries, usually the maximum is three from a single nation can call in any foriegn port. Hence having RFA as civilian vessels it allows more vessels to call. Now this is significant when a deployment requires tankers and store ships to accompany even a small deployment of a destroyer and couple of frigates or a sub. I experienced this issue some years ago in La Guaira, Venezuela, as RFA Fort Grange (civilian ship) had to remove 20mm guns (self protection) and hanger the helicopters, The third helo that was on the flight deck had to be disguised within a tent to remove the outward military impression. This allowed FG to berth alongside the three warships. If all RFAs were classed as warships it would present significant operational problems. Hence the USA operate a similar set up, often using civilian embarked helos instead of naval squadrons.

    • Useful and informative post and not something I had seen articulated previously. Certainly provides an additional perspective on why the RFA exists at all as a separate entity to the RN and why classing support ships as civilian has operational merits.

  23. The unions should be more concerned at the job losses caused in manufacturing in the larger civilian sector in part by the uncertainties of Brexit!

    Jaguar Land Rover is planning to announce up to 5,000 job cuts in the new year as part of a £2.5bn savings plan to ward off the threat from Brexit, falling sales in China and a drop in demand for diesel cars.

    I’m sorry that people are losing jobs. However, car production line personnel heavily voted Brexit, so they are now facing the consequences. News like this will hopefully win remain a second referendum.

  24. Car production problems due to waning Chinese market and the international phasing out of diesel are not Brexit factors however it is dressed up. Now forgive me for thinking the people’s vote has already happened? Or have I missed something in 2016. I did vote however am not particularly on either side, both have merits and negatives. However it is quite clear that one is considered stupid depending on the opposing view as judged by an equally stupid person. Regardless of the peopled vote. In 2016 we should unite and make the bedt of it.

    • Well you can jump off the cliff if you want to….matey here is not for jumping! You are absolutely right that neither situation is ideal, but that’s the world we live in. Better the devil you know, than the one you don’t. At least, tying European nations together has prevented conflict that has plagued our continent for hundreds of years. You must forgive me for thinking that the people had already voted on this issue. I did, the year was 1975…remainers 67%, leavers 33%…a constitutional changing majority…

      • Aye, and in ’75 the EU was nothing like it is today. It’s heading towards being all encompassing. Further and deeper integration is what the EU is planning. Not in my generation. That’s why I voted out.

        • Yes chum, what institution, country, person is the same as it was in the 1970’s. That’s why the dinosaurs voted to leave; the world changed around them. Instead of growing old gracefully, they decided to air their archaic ideas. Fact is, the young people in this country are pro-European…for [email protected]@k’s sake it’s their future…why should a bunch of right wing, racist pensioners be deciding their future. I put this to you as a senior citizen myself!!!

          • Hi Herodotus.

            Respect your views of course, and enjoy reading your posts since you arrived here.

            But please dispense with the usual lefty drivel about “Right Wing Racist Pensioners”

            This stuff only exists because that crap keeps getting thrown and it sticks. Like the “Racist” nonsense that is the result of PC allowing it to stand and shouting out other opinions.

            I’m 47. Not a pensioner. Most others I know who are Brexit and indeed attended UKIP meetings were my age or younger, and there were black people amongst them.

            Maybe those blacks are also “racist”?

            The other week there was a demo in London where a group of remain demonstrators ( likely from the Socialist Workers Party ) judging by their banners, had placards which read –

            “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome”

            This is TYPICAL of how the left twist things. No one, not even Nigel Farage himself, says they are not welcome. Ever! The immigration side of Brexit ( “Racist” say the PC moaners ) was about a balance, a fair immigration system balanced to what the country NEEDS rather than what the country CAN OFFER the immigrant.

            Unlimited mass immigration based on FREE MOVEMENT under the Single Market rules undermines that, which is one reason why so many voted leave.

            And as you can see by my name, my father himself was an immigrant to this country in 1962. So I have no problem with immigrants per se.

            As for young people. I do believe in history it was the tribal elders who decide matters, who have the life experience to know, rather than some youngster who brought up in today’s education system would not know patriotism if it bit them.

            So less of the “Right Wing Racist Pensioners” crap, if you will.

  25. I am a bit confused with the interpretation for these Fleet solid supports ships ‘Commercial’ as far as I can remember my English lessons it means to engage in commerce or intended to make a profit.
    As far as I am aware these ships do neither they are ships belonging to the State, and to be used by the State in the interest of the State, paid for by taxpayers of the State. So where does anything remotely suggest in EU regulations that a vessel belonging to the State must be open to competition, I can’t see one.
    I really do wish that the UK had a ship building capacity where there could be internal competition, but we don’t, so possibly it is a Government method to try and drive down the UK companies cost.
    What I can agree with is that we as a nation need to do something about UK shipbuilding. If we look at the requirements that will soon be coming up the industry will need to grow, The Dreadnoughts are starting construction, the T26s are under construction, the T31s will hopefully be soon in hand, the Albions will need to be replaced hopefully with two or three HMAS Canberra type ships, Argus needs replacing, the Bays are coming to the end of there life, new SSNs will need to be started (Astute is now 8 years old)(10 years for design, 7 years to build gives 25 years), possibly a new class of AIP submarines and wait for it a new type of destroyer needs to be started (HMS Daring is 8 years old)( it took ten years from design to first metal cut, then four years to build). We are looking at a minimum 250,000tons of complex warship construction in the next thirty years not including the T26s or the FSS ships. Do we have the capacity to build these I’m not sure.
    I also sometimes wonder if the UK Government and the MoD makes the best of our resources. I’ll start with the Type 45 destroyer, as far as I am aware the tooling for this class is now scrapped. So if we want a new one we will need to start again. Yet the Americans are still building Arleigh Burke class in modified forms and will continue to do so until 2025-2030. What will happen if in a few years we decide to build a new T45 with alterations for example to include a second set of Asters, we will need to retool, driving the cost up.
    The next vessel that caught my attention is the Vanguard class, they will start to be replaced when they are thirty years old, yet the Americans will have some Ohio’s when they are fifty years old, although they will have been retasked. Why can’t we retask our Vanguards for example convert them into mobile SOSUS subs, 72 cruise missiles, a long tail and an extended command and control centre. This would give the UK and NATO a major boost in the defence of the GIUK GAP. Or is the UK Government telling me that the Vanguards construction is not on par with the American Ohio’s. If it is then surly the UK possibly with US or NATO assistance/finance (they would be a NATO asset) could get a further 20 years out of these subs and use them in this way. But No we will scrap them and replace them, sometimes by thinking outside the box we could enhance our capabilities without it costing the earth.

  26. Ron, I think you over simplfy some of the solutions. Regarding the subs, as previously stated on this site, SSBN are designed to operate in deep water in remote locstions, Independantly and silent. Their whole design and operating mechanic is based around this. Moving them closer inshore into shallower water to operate in a tactical environment would present excessive risk and have limited operational use. You can’t convert an articulated lorry into a town taxi. Likewise the expense to refuel (3 yesrs work) and convert to another role would be prohibitive. In addition having a large relatively noisey nuclear submarine ( all nucs are noisey due to nuclear plant pumps) tailing a towed array in an environment frequented by far quieter hunter killer subs would be suicidal. The US have converted a few older Ohio’s, however they are only effective against low grade enemy technology and deployed in areas that have nil maritime or airborne ASW threat. Hope this helps clarify operational considerations.

    • Not entirely true regarding reactor pumps. Good design means that natural convection currents circulate water around the primary loop at lower power reducing the need for the pump to be on
      Good design, double or triple rafting and regular noise hygiene inspections keep the tones that are transmitted into the water to a minimum.

  27. Seems to be a concern that UK yards are not getting work, but as far as I’m aware UK yards have a 3.1b order for T26, 350m OPVs and will have a 1.25b for T31. They in the final throws of completing a 6.7b carrier order. There will be follow order for T26. Then there’s the survey ship at 210m, plus out fit of the tides and 1b was awarded in October for RFA ships and 280m for T45. There’s the Astute orders at over 1b a pop and BAe were given a 3.25b order for work on the Dreadnoughts this year.

    Does any order European country have similar orders?

  28. why not rename the RFA to the RNA replace “fleet” with “navy” and therefore the Govt. would then have to class them as warships as they would be counter as a part of the RN Inventory as we do with the RNR vessels.

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