The comments were made in a discussion regarding the currently suspended competition to build the future Fleet Solid Support Ships, seemingly endorsing keeping the building of these ships in the UK.

Kevan Jones. MP for North Durham, said here:

“The RFA Fort Victoria will supply our carrier battle group until 2028. Most commentators say that that ship alone is not sufficient to support the carrier group. When will the Secretary of State bring forward the procurement of the fleet solid support ships? That would not only increase capability for the Royal Navy but be a big ​boost to UK plc, including the supply chain in the north-east of England, if that procurement were to be placed in UK yards.”

Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, responded:

“The right hon. Member often campaigns for shipbuilding in the UK and he has heard my answers. First, I am keen that it gets under way as soon as possible; indeed, I have asked officials to bring it forward from the proposed date. The plus side is that such ships are not highly complex, so once the competition happens and it is placed, I do not think it will take long to build them. I therefore do not anticipate a capability gap at all. He is right that British shipbuilding and British yards produce some of the best ships in the world and we should support them as best as we can and ensure our navy gets some great British-made kit.

This comes after 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 also recently 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 and it is hoped the suspension and retendering efforts are part of an effort to make this happen.

Time will tell if we’re correct.

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It is all very well saying these will be ‘British built’ but that depends on how capable the UK Ship Building Industry is to perform the project in a cost effective manner. 1) Govan could only build blocks and is busy with Type-26 2) Rosyth will be busy with Type-31 and has its own risks being a yard that has only ever assembled the QE class and as of yet never built a vessel 3) H&W hasn’t built a ship in many years and will need new facilities, even with the support of Navantia it is high risk 4) Cammell… Read more »


Plus Cammel hasn’t done well with Attenborough or the RFA refits.


Indeed I had also heard that they had hit problems with RSS Attenborough. They also lack a Panel Line and their work sheds are full up with bits subcontracted to them for the Dreadnought class. As I said, easy to say Build in Britain but the current state if British Shipbuilding hardly makes that easy. On top of that whilst the answer is often given “Invest in the yards to build up what they need to be able to build ships” people ignore the question of Sustainability! When the only customer is UK MOD for what is a limited amount… Read more »


If we build our own R.N. AND R.F.A. it is perfectly sustainable to keep 3 shipbuilding yards going. Invest in the Clyde, Rosyth and Cammell Lairds on the Mersey so they have modern, efficient facilities in which to build our R.N. and R.F.A. ships.


No I’m sorry you are wrong. It isn’t efficient and certainly not sustainable. The RN and RFA are not big enough a market to sustain a Shipbuilding industry involving so many yards.


I’m sorry, but it is you who is wrong. 3 yards is not unsustainable for our entire R.N. and R.F.A.? The Clyde is busy with the Type 26 for a long time, Rosyth with the Type 31, now where are we to build these S.S.S.? Very clearly we need 3 shipbuilding yards. The Clyde and Rosyth – Destroyers and Frigates. Cammell Lairds – R.F.A. and other R.N large ships. That’s not even to mention O.P.V.s, M.C.M.V.s, etc. We can sustain these 3 shipbuilding yards indefinitely with R.N. and R.F.A. work alone. We should invest in these 3 shipbuilding yards so… Read more »


I’m sorry to break it to you but no it isn’t, we are dealing with a situation of feast and famine when it comes to British ship building. The Clyde can’t build anything particularly big and is busy with Type-26. To deliver River Batch-2 involved the use of contract workers leading to even more problems down stream. Rosyth is a repair yard and is unproven as an actual build yard, QE was an Assembly exercise utilising blocks from all over the country. Cammell Laird has struggled with the RSS David Attenborough, lacks a proper panel line and is also subcontracted… Read more »

Glass Half Full

“Ideally the UK would have two build yards, the one at Barrow and another mega yard with easy sea access.” This might be appropriate if all we expect from the yard is RN/RFA ship building/maintenance and are willing to pay a high premium for doing so. But there is a significant problem – BAES. It takes the cream off the top of MOD shipbuilding and as a monopoly it is not incentivized to reduce costs, invest in facilities, pursue foreign military shipbuilding business to manufacture in the UK or engage in commercial shipbuilding, all to help reduce costs on MOD… Read more »


Regarding Clyde/Rosyth where to when Scotland leaves the Union…….


This is the perfect opportunity for C.L. to invest in a panel line, etc. so that at the end of this C.L.s can build large ships on 1 site so that British shipbuilding is not forever hampered by having to move blocks all over the country.


That cruise ship boom may be over for quite a while. There are countless cruise ships tied up alongside still not permitted to sail due to Corvid 19 and the first of the cruise companies has gone broke with others likely to follow. Shipbuilding jobs will shrink as a result. Now is a good time to invest in the regular building of warships as cheaply and quickly as possible to keep our yards viable using the proposed second hand export market at (perhaps) half hull life to maintain drumbeat .

Time to be a JEDI …. (Just ‘effing do it!)


Right, I think this is what we are moving towards.


Hopefully foreign shipbuilding jobs and yards will go. If we use the FSSS correctly this could well help our new UK shipbuilding sector into other avenues of shipbuilding other than just grey coloured ships. Look at the various market secters of present and future ship types, where it is going and home in on it. Many of those cruise ships may well have an earlier than expected end and there is a lot of old tonnage in that sector, an eyer to alonger term future is needed, but here are other present and new sector opportunities too. We will get… Read more »


You need to have experience in building ships to get good at it.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Jumpstart local economies in Belfast, Liverpool, the Clyde and more with regular drumbeats of ship orders. HMS Scott, RFA Argus, the FSS programme the Albions a hospital ship amongst other need replacing or building


As with the T31 it needs to be competition. If a yard is named upfront we’ll inevitably pay far more. Would anyone walk into car show room and say I’m going to buy that car right their, not going elsewhere so how much? You’d end up paying top price. Instead of over pricing the ships I would offer the winning bidder grants/loans to become more efficient with criteria they need to meet, this way you ensure additional costs are sunk into making the yard more efficient so at the end of order we have a yard that can win more… Read more »


Isn’t it about resurrecting shipbuilding capacity, so the need to build skills up , hence working with an experienced yard and have a guaranteed order book for a 10 year oeriod. Hence both HW and CL and Argus replacement as well as mcm replacement.


Of course this would make sense. But it will never happen thanks to the chronic short termism that afflicts Government…..


The article states states the complete opposite, they are planning long term.

Andrew dyson

There is a valid case to rebuild shipbuilding in the North East in time for the T45 replacement via 2 extra type 26s and for Appledore to build patrol and specialist vessels akin to the River classes


Appledore is gone and even before that their major work was the Irish Navy hulls that were fairly bare bones, could their shed even handle the River class? Not too mention the issues with their fit out area.


It’s not like BAE will ever face competition to build Tempest, there is only one option, so considering our ship building capability is so limited we don’t really have a choice other than to say if you can’t build it within 20% of a foreign competitor we will go elsewhere.


But with Tempest the UK will push for export sales and theirs further potential for commercial spin offs from the technology investment. We’ve actually seen that with the T26 but that’s the design only. Why because its one of the best designs in the he world. If we want to sell ship building capacity then it needs to be cutting edge and efficient and like our designs the best in the world. What I read is everyone saying let not even bother with productivity or growing the industry is all about sustainability. We’ve given up and saying this needs to… Read more »


Disagree. In 1980-1990s, there were several UK shipbuilding industries, but they got very little commercial order, even when they are in severe competition each other. Many of them just disappeared at last. “Competition” needs “at least three” shipyards which is capable to self sustain itself without winning the specified bid. Car shopping is like this. Even if you do not buy from Toyota and buy Rover, Toyota will not dye out because other is buying it. UK shipbuilding is not in such situation. Imposing competition will just mean ALL shipyards will disappear soon. As you know, H&W, CL, BAE Clyde,… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Being in competition is not the same as being competitive. There are plenty of commercial shipyards across Europe that have been successful through smart investment along with modern labour practices. The poor management, lack of investment, old working practices and unions that failed to see the long term effect of their policies all contributed to the UK’s decline. I should qualify that last sentence as applying to shipbuilding but sadly it also applies in other UK industries too. A commercial component to a shipyards business doesn’t have to be just shipbuilding. H&W for example was bought to support manufacturing infrastructure… Read more »


But on the flip side without competition we’d all be driving around in Trabants. If there’s no options companiez just say you want to buy this is what you get and this what you have to pay. The T31 competition worked well without it we would be building what BAe would offer at the price they dictated. The government was forced to buy OPV from bae due to TOBA which effectively had locked them into buying from BAe. Result whats widely acknowledged as the most expensive OPVs on the planet. Lack of competition will not save anything it’ll lead to… Read more »


Disagree, again. TOBA is something which is crucially needed. Experienced labor and engineer will never come out of the sky. You need to train them and keep them. Navantia, Naval, Damen, Fincantierri. All succesful shipyards has continuous order. If there is nothing, Government orders something to fill the gap. See Spanish BAM OPV. 5th and 6th hulls were ordered to fill the gap, and was very expensive. But, it was crucial to keep the yards running and now they start F110 frigates. Why French frigate Normandee sold to Egypt? By selling it and ordering another one on the order list… Read more »


I’m not entirely in disagreement with you, I agree we need to find way to have a efficient and sustainable industry. Its correct being competitive can be achieved without competition. Challenge is how to measure that. Some general point below and perhaps rhetorical questions. Their certainly no silver bullet. Ford automotive were keen to ensure their vendors were competitive so insisted on the winners of competitive bids open their books, basically they wanted to ensure their vendors were making a profit on the bid. Ford did this because too many times vendors went out of business which was disruptive to… Read more »


Now bidders make alliances and share the costs of overruns with the MoD, it seems to be working quite well.


“I do not think it will take long to build them”. Really? The contract for the Tides was let in 2012, the first entered service in 2017 and the last in 2019. The contract for the Bays was let in 2000, the first entered service in 2006 and the last in 2007. Realistically it is going to be 5-6 years between planing the contract and the first ship entering service. By then the oldest Fort will have been in service for nearly 50 years……


It seems to take longer to make the decision that it does to build most of the time. Realistically work should have started on these vessels a couple of years ago.


This is good news if true. Build them at Cammell Lairds with blocks from A & P Tyne if needed, and use it as an opportunity to invest in C.L. so they have modern, efficient facilities to build future R.F.A. and R.N. ships.


This is a golden opportunity for C.L.s to invest in a panel line, etc. so at the end of this we have 1 British shipyard that can build large ships on 1 site, thus removing the need, and expense, of having to move blocks hundreds of miles.


British shipyards build some of the best ships in the world ???
I give you Exhibits A and B, M’lud…. the T45 and HMS Forth…


I also give you H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth and the Astute class….

David Barry

Astute, seriously? Long delays, issues with the rescheduled time table so severe that it may impact Trident replacement timetable.

QEC? Cost! (Although Govt share responsibility for that)


Real cost around 4 Billion for two ships after offcialdom causing extra costs. The carriers are the cheapest super carriers built in modern times.


Caused by a long delay from the previous attack subs and Trident subs build?


I’ve not heard of any build quality issues with the T45’s before. Are they made like crap? Obviously I know about the incorrectly specified intercooler issue that degrades and trips the power, but that’s not a build quality issue.


T 45 compared to other similar ships are very cheap. We included everything in the price unlike other nations. The MoD and UK government dictate build speed and do our industry no credit at all.


Whilst I am not against building them locally, the navy needs ships not promises and as it stands we know there will be a capacity gap which will bring the carrier’s to their knees.

The quotes stink of delay tactics to me to avoid actually spending the money. Watch a couple of esp of yes minster and then reread the whole extensive review comment.


I suspect there is a bigger picture here. Boris’ Brexit deal abandoned the Unionists and cut NI loose. It cannot be long before the province has to choose between federating with Dublin or continuing with devolved UK status. A Boris bridge to Stranraer and a regenerated non sectarian H&W would tilt the balance in favour of both Scotland and NI remaining part of the UK. If you were catholic you had no chance of a job at H&W. A Spanish partner changes that. Even in its tourist heritage state its easy to see why the Lagan is a super place… Read more »


Hmmm H&W with a Spanish partner. As a Roman Catholic, I find that rather amusing!


The Lord works in mysterious ways. As I recall Pope Innocent XI supported William of Orange. 🧐


It would be more effective for London to just give Scotland and NI citizens the money than waste it on the Bridge. As for H&W, it depends for example if you look at it the younger Catholic population has the better educational levels, it’s the “working class” Protestant population of the same age that have the lowest skills/education from the last studies into. Would H&W be attractive? Is there enough labour force to make it practical?


I think the evidence is that strategic communications infrastructure creates economic growth in the same way as cities and ports grow up in natural features of geography like rivers and harbours. The M4 created a lot of economic regeneration to the west of Heathrow. Only Westminster can sponsor and fund a Boris bridge. As to availability of skills and labour, yes, you would have to seed core skills from outside and put in place good training schemes. I believe Navantia would be up for this and the young men and women in NI would jump at the chance of a… Read more »


There is no way a bridge drives economic growth in those areas, NI just isn’t economical active enough to generate such growth. As for young people jumping for this, evidence as I’ve said suggests otherwise, and finally those flights are due to Arlene and her “we’re no different from GB so have to have full access”, and those NI workers are flying to the UK because most of their usual sites (in the Republic) were shut completely during the Republic’s shut down compared to the UK’s stance. As to the people of NI not being afraid of work… again the… Read more »


From reading Ben Wallace’s words, forgive me if I’m just being overly suspiscious, but he did not in fact say that these would be British built. He spoke of a desire to support British ship building, and to provide British kit to the military. But he also described the vessels as non-complex (which is government double speak for “doesn’t need to be built in the UK”) and referenced his previous responses- none of which have confirmed a British build for these vessel yet. I’m sure that he’s keen to see them built British, but what he has definitely not done… Read more »

Gavin Gordon

The Response does not in fact make any committment to building the FSS ships in the UK.


Over capacity then under capacity, over capcity then under capacity. Under capcity then over capacity, under capcity then over capacity… Don’t have the facilities or they are under invested in but Uk taxpayer funded contracts do not demand investment in them, energy costs too high, yet labour are are competitive, didn’t have the carpenters to fit out QM2 cruising ship/slight ocean liner thing. Excuses excuses excuses. All BS!


The BREXIT party is ready and waiting as this liblabconplaidsnp party does not serve the UK and give her defence or conditions for important strategic industry to thrive.


This is just the post china-19 virus (not post though is it) the UK shipbuilding sector and UK steel making sector along with the other tier sectors in the UK need for a great industrial imputous and great tax back as most of it will be and can be done within the UK along with some worthwhile investment.

Rob N

I cannot help but observe that UK yards are in this state because they have failed to be successful in the global civilian market. Why is this? Spain, Germany manage to build ships…. the RN is too small a customer to support the UK industry. I do not think a protectionist – we must buy from the UK will get the best deal for the RN and taxpayer. All it does is allow UK companies to inflate prices and prop-up commercially unviable yards/activities. While I think we should build are warships in the UK, I think support ships should go… Read more »

John Clark

There is also the ever present next Scottish independence vote ( to be held every four years until the SNP get the ‘right’ result). That needs to be put to bed before any further RN/ RFA work tenders are put out. If Scotland decides to go its own way, then a rebalance needs to be undertaken, work that was due to head to Scotland could go to CL and the North East among others. After all, the government is set to invest in massive infrastructure projects, why not English shipbuilding, with emphasis on areas of the country were the investment… Read more »


I see that the Daily Telegraph is reporting today (13 July) that “Fears are growing that a £1bn-plus contract to build ships to supply the Navy’s new aircraft carriers could be abandoned in expected defence cuts”. Hopefully just kite flying, but it’s become hard to see the RFA getting more than two ships – particularly if extra costs are incurred by the MoD by building the hulls in the UK.


Whoops. Sorry Richard. Ought to have looked first 😟


Any idea why these are forecast to be so expensive? bearing mind the tide class were built for about 170 million each, I’m a little baffled why these should cost nearly 3 times as much for what I presume is a similar displacement/standard of vessel.


Yes it would be built to commercial standards.
I’d expect higher costs as it appears it will be expected to take on all the same stores as fort Vic’s, means still holding liquids, dry / solid stores and all types of ammunition used in the Group. Means multiple holds with different requirements. Looking at it I suspect given they want to go more multipurpose that Fort Vic they will be bigger than the tides too as they are similar physical size already.
I would agree though that 3x the price seems a bit high.