HMS Forth is having major rectification work performed, with the vessel she replaced being brought back into active service.

Earlier in the year, it was reported that issues with new Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Forth would be rectified within a few weeks, this did not happen as the defects appear to have been far more serious than feared.

HMS Forth has been found to have more than 100 defects, including electrical and safety issues.

Our contact, currently serving in the Royal Navy and involved with the programme, tells us that the ship has been handed back to BAE due to “the very poor standard of build”, BAE however advise that this has not happened.We were told:

“For example bolt heads glued back on (thousands over tightened) high voltage switchboard very dangerous, life rafts failed to launch, wiring sub standard, galley not secured… list is huge. It’s much worse than what they released. Captain of the ship and higher rankers had a meeting with BAE, MoD etc. I’m surprised nothing has been said else where with it being first of class. They reckon 3 months to rectify, I reckon much more.”

UPDATE: We had reported that HMS Forth was to be dry docked to rectify issues and that she had been handed back to BAE Systems, BAE have since told us that this isn’t correct.

“There are no plans to dry dock HMS FORTH as the rectification works on-board the ship do not require dry docking.

In order to gain access to areas of the ship to complete rectification work we have taken over the care and protection of HMS FORTH for a short period. This is standard procedure when maintaining a ship for the Royal Navy.”

We also understand from our contact that the entire Batch 2 River class programme has been set back due to this, with the second vessel in the class having supposed to have started sea trials in October last year but is currently still alongside at the BAE yard in Scotstoun, Glasgow.

Our contact explained what’s happening with HMS Tyne and the other, older Offshore Patrol Vessels.

“However as Forth is a long way from being ready and with these new problems, Tyne is being reactivated and the other OPV which was decommissioned is going into refit.

Safe to say its all very political and no quick way to solve the issues. The whole OPV Batch 2 project has now been delayed to the quality issues.”

“And BAE will be getting the bill for getting HMS Tyne back operational” he added.

HMS Forth is the first of the five new Offshore Patrol Vessels being built to replace the current River Class vessels. The vessels had been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigate build started.

A BAE spokesman said:

“We are actively supporting the Royal Navy to resolve issues around a limited number of bolt fastenings and the electrical system on HMS Forth. These are unrelated issues and investigations for each are now underway to ensure that we resolve any potential impact and establish the cause. We are committed to delivering equipment that meets rigorous safety and quality standards.”

An MoD spokesman added:

“It is normal for us to work with industry partners to make some rectifications to ships once they have been handed to the Royal Navy BAE Systems is already at work on some areas as we work together to ensure HMS Forth goes on to tackle piracy, safeguard our fishing stocks and protect our coastline.”

HMS Forth had been earmarked to replace half-sister HMS Clyde as the Falkland Islands Guardship and is currently alongside in Portsmouth undergoing repair work.

130 COMMENTS

    • maybe this kind of issue will force the end of the BAE monopoly.its really not good enough especially after the t45 design fiasco

      • To be fair to BAe, the T45 engine problems appear to be a result of a government decision to choose particular UK equipment over foreign. I believe I read somewhere that HMG was advised of the potential risks, but decided to go ahead anyway.

    • All lead vessels are basically, prototypes. In the car industry, many prototypes are built to assess all systems. In ship-building especially warships, all system verification has to be executed on just one hull. I’m sure HMS Prince Of Wales will be a better ship than its elder as most lessons learned will have been addressed.

      • The River class can hardly be classed as a prototype all of its electrical systems are off the shelf there is no ground breaking technology onboard that anyone has been made aware of. It’s sh!te craftsmanship to glue back snapped off bolt heads. They should reassess the contract for T26 and build them somewhere they take pride in their jobs.

        • An unfair comment, like myself you have no idea what all the issues are. No car manufacturer would ever sign off on just one new car prototype; even if that vehicle had many carry-over parts. The first Type 26 will have build and service issues that can be guaranteed, it’s just the nature of the process.

          • I’ve been in the automotive and steel business for 25 years however I’ve never been part of a process that involves glueing back on sheared off bolt heads. That’s not a build issue, that’s not part of a snagging list, that’s incompetence.

          • The River 2 cannot be described as a prototype type though it’s an extremely conservative and mature design. This is why it’s so alarming they will be building the T26 when they can’t even build a very basic opv. If their customer was anyone other than the government and they delivered a basic ship with those defects their contract would be terminated and all future work lost.

      • This is not a first of class. Three vessels of this design are in service with the Brizilian Navy. It is well known in the industry that all ships built by BAE on the Clyde are of poor build quality.

  1. bolt heads glued back on

    Really? and people complain when equipment is sourced from abroad demanding that new ships are built in the very same dockyard HMS Forth was built. Its like British Leyland all over again. I wonder if HMS Forth has a square steering wheel as well?

    • You have a good point Farouk, looks like we are heading back to the seventies with this shoddiness.

      This is what happens when workers do not have pride in their work and seem to think they have a job for life irrespective of what they do. It’s also probably a reason why these ships and BAE generally is overpriced.

      • The price was down the government screw ups but the fact we were paying through the nose for them makes the state they have been delivered in completely unacceptable.

    • (Chris H) farouk – Well I for one have never suggested or demanded further UK naval ships are built in Scotland let alone the Clyde. We have other yards who, it would appear, are better able to build the ships we need to the right quality.

      As for foreign ‘quality’ the first Tide Class was delayed for 18 months with wiring ‘issues’.

      Having said that even the Germans can’t build decent ships with their new Frigate listing happily out of dry dock.

      • Which yards are they Chris?

        When was the last time a ship was built in the UK and not launched from Scotland?

        No doubt this article paints a bleak picture but it’s worth noting that almost every new first of class USN vessells has been handed back to Contractors in recent years, LCS, zumwalt, ford etc

        • Not just in recent years Kitty Hawk broke down on her first cruise. With I might add President Kennedy watching.
          First in class always will have teething issues. Engines, welds, electrical, amongst others. The glueing bolt heads back on though is completely inexcusable. The workers who did it and the ones who knew but did not report should be jailed along with whichever company man possibly ordered such measures.
          This is the effects of a lack of consistent ordering of warships the last Type 45 was launched in 2010. Before then the last Type 23 was launched in 2000. The last River 1 in 03 or 07 depending on how you count variants. The Khareefs they built for export were in all likelihood built at a loss when you at the money closely. So I wouldn’t have much confidence in their build standard.
          When you keep hiring then firing the workforce over and over again you are going to get issues. Both in training/ build quality and in deliberate slowdowns.
          All moving the orders to another yard would do is force you to start over in training the workers. Better to fire a few and jail the corrupt. While ensuring those who did their job are praised and rewarded. Carrot and stick works every time. Packing up your toys just doesn’t solve anything.

        • (Chris H) Martin – Second point first: The last ship / boat built in the UK but not in Scotland was HMS Audacious in 2017

          * Now I know submarines are ‘boats’ but we daft English have launched, or rather floated out, a few of those including Astute, Vanguard and Trafalgar being the current serving submarines.
          * 4 of the Type 23 Frigates were built at Wallsend.
          * HMS Enterprise was built at Appledore and launched in 2002.
          * RRS James Clark Ross (Antarctic Survey Ship built at Wallsend and launched in 1990 and still one of the most advanced ships of its kind.
          * RRS Sir David Attenborough currently being built on time and to budget by Cammell Laird on Merseyside.

          I won’t labour the point further but suffice to say Scotland is not the only place capable of building advanced ships to a high quality. To think otherwise is just daft.

  2. Shoddy workmanship by the sound of it.
    More delays and not looking promising for the final delivery of the type 26’s either.
    As for the type 31e”s…

  3. Wow, shocking. Might this have been fireseen sometime ago by the RN/MoD which might explain the funds set aside for keeping the B1s in reserve? At the time many, myself included, thought that this might be due to an expansion of the OPV fleet to keep the 3 B1s in addition to the new B2s – perhaps this was not the case, perhaps the funds were set aside just in case this eventuality materialised?

  4. Can we all agree not to be shocked years from now when the Type-26 turns out to be a mess as well.

    Also, as an aside I wonder to do the doors and toilets work on the Queen Elizabeth yet?

    There is no point protecting this industry while it churns out overpriced crap.

  5. Maybe this is why the Royal Navy needs to get a better OPV or even talk to the USCG on how to build and operate an OPV

  6. This is further evidence that “putting all our ships in BAE’s basket” is not working and we need open competition for defence companies and ship designers to bid for contracts and shipyards to then bid to build and maintain the vessels.

    Open competition will drive down costs and increase quality. Shipyards that make these kinds of mistakes would loose out on future work.

    BAE have made too many mistakes and are struggling with quality and cost controls. It’s time to offer these contracts to other companies and shipyards to prove their worth.

    • I fully agree A.Smith.

      Competition is a good thing and also servers as a wakeup call.
      More investment south of the border would be a wise move at this point in my humble opinion.

      • It is going to be much harder now for politicians to justify giving all these contracts to BAE and for all the vessels to be built and fitted out in Scotland if these issues keep happening and new ships are being laid up.

        • Correct me if im wrong but i dont think The Fleet Solid Support ships would have been built in those yards as they would have been to large for those yards
          So hopefully they will be built in some other yard here and no abroad

      • I think in light of this, the two new Fleet Solid Support ships should be built elsewhere.
        I’m all for work being given to UK shipyards first and foremost, but this has clearly changed my mind!

        • Or they go to a new alliance like the carriers did? It sounds as though there will only be one UK bid, an alliance, so let’s not write that off

        • (Chris H) Nigel Collins – Hang on you can’t go tarring the whole UK shipbuilding industry with the same brush of blame because BAE workers in Glasgow are turning out shite workmanship. Shite on ships given to them to keep them in work no less! So much for pride in the job, respect for taxpayers and respect for keeping their jobs.

          Even BAE itself turns out better quality in Barrow so it sounds like its a Glasgow / Scottish thing.

          FSS ships should and must be built in the UK.

          • Was It not you having a go last week about Scottish people as well and denying being a bigot?

          • (Chris H) Martin – No I denied being a racist which was the term you actually used. So I will also deny being a bloody bigot. How about you just debate the issues Old Son and stow the personal abuse OK?

            Arguing against the SNP (a political party) to say the whole of the UK and not just Scotland should get a share of taxpayer’s expenditure on naval ships isn’t bigotry. Its called discussion or debate. Or in the case of the SNP common sense.

          • “Even BAE itself turns out better quality in Barrow so it sounds like its a Glasgow / Scottish thing.”

            Supposedly around half the BaE Clyde workforce is down in Barrow to help speed things up, have been since maybe 2014. This came out when talking about the build of the T26 – the workforce would need to gear up again, with apparently some months delay. Pretty obviously building an OPV doesn’t take as many people as a T45 or a T26, nor the same complexity. So the delay in making the actual orders for the first T26 batch, has caused problems, and that is not really BaE’s fault.

            With Bae NOT building the 2 a year frigate factory at £200 million, which they changed to a £100 million investment, and then with that £100 million investment not happening either, as I said before seems to me BaE have lost interest, perhaps with due cause because of those delays to the T26 and cut back from 13 to 8, and that sort of not interested attitude starts at the top and works its way down.

            The 15 year BaE TOBA ends in 2024.

            As for the quality of build on the Clyde, and indeed in Scotland, Fergusons have built well, and does anyone really have any problems with the quality of the QE, apart from sinking apparently from a 200 litre an hour leak? Did that happen?

            I’d say less anti-Scottish hysteria is called for, and more rational thinking. Plus, if this is all true, and I say – if – then some sort of enquiry should be put in hand, as in the unlikely event of a decomissioning old OPV being actually refit instead, that’s not just cost but capability, and impact on many long-term plans.

        • 3 Nigel Collins. Focus on three, 3, not 1 or 2 with an option for a third, but 3, three ships. They should be built in the UK as you hear of all sorts of horror stories around the world’s shipyards. Any issue like this is bad, but is the hull itself bad? those well could be the bits fitted out by UK contractors abroad anyhow if those 3 Solid Support Ships were criminally given abroad. I remember seeing small chalk marks on the bow of HMS Daring in the VT’s yard in Portsmouth with words to the effect of grind out, weld again. Any small fault was looked at.

    • B= BAD QUALITY,A=ALWAYS LATE AND O, E=EXPENSIVE. somebody is accountable for this, and should be dealt with accordingly, as for nuts and bolts being glued? i despair. again

  7. Bolt heads glued back on?

    If this is a result of stripped threads, or snapped heads, through over-tightening, then this has the potential for serious failures! Especially for/on specific torque items.

    You could even argue, that it amounts to sabotage, something that wasn’t that rare in 1970s shipyards.

    • It may be not be sabotage, but it certainly is dishonesty on the part of BAE staff attempting to cover-up their mistakes by gluing the heads back on.
      Making mistakes is forgivable, it’s human. But deliberate deception should be a sacking offence by BAR for the staff concerned and the MOD should consider cancelling the contract outright and demand the return of all funds for this fraudulent and dangerous behaviour.

    • I’m a poor enough mechanic, but still I know not to overtighten bolts, and the idea of gluing the bolt heads back on to cover up mistakes would not even occur to me. Some people ought to be fined or fired.

  8. I doubt that it was deliberate industrial sabotage, if this was the 1970’s I would be much more sceptical. It sounds more like sheer shoddy work, with the cracks metaphorically papered over and hope the customer doesn’t notice. However if the ship really has been handed back to BAE then it sounds rather bad.
    If all five of the class are badly delayed it doesn’t look good for their bid for T31, on the other hand QE was assembled by Babcock and if there are still rectification to be done there both teams don’t look good.

  9. A little more information:
    “The first new Batch II River-class OPV, which just entered service last month, was found to have over 100 defects on board. While it is not unusual for a new ship to undergo a shakedown period after delivery, especially if it is the first in its class, some of the defects were of an unusual nature. Prominent errors included flawed work on life raft davits, where bolt heads were found “to have been cut off and glued in place.”

    In reply BAE had this to say:
    “we are aware of an issue with a limited number of bolt fastenings on board HMS Forth. These did not present a risk to the mechanisms that secure the life rafts to the ship.”
    https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/bae-systems-acknowledges-defects-aboard-hms-forth#gs.IeH6efY

    • Having just read this article, I’m even more drawn to the theory of sabotage.
      There are still some twisted remnants, and their acolytes, of that militant mindset of the 70s, that still roam the yards.

      • ‘To be fair to Bae’.
        UK has been more than fair to Bae this is a disgrace. Bae have had it too good for too long and be stripped of their right to compete for further batches of T26. Perhaps the reason for the delay of HMS Glasgow is their incompetence? T26 can be built at Rosyth.
        I agree this could also be sabotage because….
        The Nats hate the UK and would love the Westminster Government break its promise to build frigates in Scotland. Surely the Government will need to put the contract for the next batch of T26 out to tender.
        Another sad day for Clyde shipbuilding.

        • (Chris H) 4thwatch – Its not fair to anyone to make a global criticism because of the deliberate / careless (strike as you will) poor quality now apparent on the Clyde. Submarines are far far more complex than OPVs or Frigates but Barrow turn those out brilliantly. Warton also turns out faultless very complex Typhoons etc etc. No the issue to me is The Clyde and the Scots themselves who are playing with fire with the UK as a whole and now its own industrial future.

          So for you to make a wide sweeping criticism of BAE and then suggest we use Rosyth (which would employ the same people and is governed by the same people as the Clyde) to build future T26 ships totally misses the real issue here.

          T31s to Cammell Laird now and FSS ships to H & W Belfast with modules from Tees / Tyneside (yes I know its the ‘wrong’ side of the country but its better than anywhere in Scotland IMHO). And then follow up the FSS with similar sized ‘Albion Mk II’ larger amphibious vessels built on the (then) proven FSS hull and drive systems giving a 30,000 Ton Amphibious capability

  10. The Royal Navy could learn much from the type of vessel employed by the Irish Navy. I am beginning to see a common thread in just where millions of taxpayer pounds are being frittered away here.

  11. To be honest the biggest losers here I reckon are Camell Laird because this is going to make the Type 31 Leander build even less likely compared to Arrowhead. A real shame that they might end up being screwed over by Bae and their dodgy monopoly through no fault of their own apart from association.

    • (Chris H) Chris – Except that BAE will have little or nothing to do with the building of Type 31s. They would be built on Merseyside not the Clyde with BAE adding weapon and warfare systems..

      The team that is now at risk is the Babcock – Rosyth / Fergusons – Clyde lot not Cammell Laird.

  12. Surely this must give further credence to the arrowhead syndicate for T31.

    I just dont see how that work can now be given to BAE. I would also now question any work being done in Scotland, if this is what’s happening. There is a difference between an apprentice over tightening a few bolts and getting the torque wrong and what seems to have happened here, truly quite shocking.

    Babcock seem to have a very good reputation and I am sure the SSS could go to Cammel Laird if we were sensible.

    It’s worth noting that the Tyne yard had its contract (and hull section) on the carriers taken away for similar reasons, so wonder if this will impact the T26.

  13. Sounds terrible but I am not going to rush to judgement because I don’t actually know the details or context. But looking at T45 and Astute problems there is a trend here. We have lost many of the skills we possessed and rely on people on temporary contracts (contractor personnel) with insufficient experience and skill levels. Staff training is inadequate. Corners are cut. Downward pressure on costs and squeeze on margins. Industry lacks critical mass and steady flow of work. These were built cause we can’t get our act together to order T26 in time to guarantee work continuity. I’m not going to get into the blame game but it doesn’t bode well for T26 and doesn’t do our export hopes much good either. Very worrying and very sad. I don’t have an answer either.

    • (Chris H) Richard – as usual a very sensible attitude but can I add a couple of observations? Any hard nosed business enterprise would have used the OPVs as demonstrators for their excellence to gain further work. It would also have used the less demanding vessels to improve and train the workforce especially as the OPVs were ‘given’ to the Clyde to specifically keep jobs and therefore those skills in place. It seems the workers on the Clyde feel so entitled (egged on by their SNP minders) that they feel they can produce crap (and dangerous crap at that) and still have a long term future.

      You won’t be surprised to read my next point: The MoD should now tell BAE on the Clyde that there will be no further T26 builds in Scotland beyond the three contracted until quality is totally proven. And indeed no T31 builds at Fergusons Clyde / Babcock Rosyth either. Which means T31s go to Cammell Laird on Merseyside and FSS ships to H & W Belfast with additional modules from Tyneside. There is no reason why T26s couldn’t then follow on after FSS ships 1 and 2 (given ship 3 is ‘provisional’) if quality from the Clyde has not improved and the first T26 ships fail to deliver.

      A National Shipbuilding Strategy only works when each part of the Nation is capable of top quality work. A reality check is now needed and only those parts capable of doing quality work should be included.

      • I totally agree no pride in there work and poor qaulity workman ship, they only have them self’s to blame BAE systems, they need to understand that the RN will not accept any old rubbish. Put the whole lot out to tender, with harsh penalties for poor workmanship. I am sure other UK shipyard would welcome a chance at a tendering for the work.

  14. Immediate and all pretty obvious thoughts, in no particular order…

    1 – It makes the huge price paid for the River B2s even more annoying now we find just what serious issues the first in class seems to have. We paid a fortune to BAE to build them to honour our contract (which admittedly we were obliged to honour) but BAE could at least have delivered a quality product in return especially given the price paid.

    2 – Let’s hope this is a wake up call for both parties (supplier and customer) that has come in time to head off any similar problems of this severity with T26.

    3 – A few (or most) of the staff involved with the Babcock Consortium probably have smiles on their faces at the moment. I’m not saying this would swing any decision but it has to be a negative for the Leander bid, especially as it’s not just BAE messing up, it’s BAE messing up on a class that is a precursor to the Leander design.

  15. Now maybe people will start to believe me when I warned about build quality from the Clyde yards.i got told I was only bitter because BAE closed Portsmouth in favour of Scotland but we had witnessed this in the 2 T&T ships (that became Brazillian Amazonus) built there for us!

  16. This is a lot of comments in just 4 hours. I wish the MOD had as much passion. I think there are two lessons to learn here.

    1. Make sure new ships are available before the old ships retire.

    2. Have a permanent production line of ships of a single size from a single yard. We are soon to have six 8t ton T45s, eight 7t ton T26s and five 6t ton T31s plus a small number of support and research ships in the 3-6t ton range. Why can’t they all be the same size and use the same hull? We could have 24 hulls of 6t tons which is one every 6 months, some with blue water equipment for carrier group work, some with littoral kit and some as support ships. The staff building them would then have a job for life and so would their kids.

    • To be fair to the RN and MOD, I would imagine that they are hopping mad over this, particularly over issues that appear to be down to poor quality workmanship. However, you will rarely if ever detect this in any statements, announcements etc that they are likely to make. They just don’t do that sort of thing. What they say in private to BAe may be very different, but I shall be surprised if BAe ispublically hauled over the coals over this, at least not by any official RN/MOD/HMG spokesman.

      • At the very least the Parliamentary Select committee on defence should be summoning the Chief Executive of BAE Systems Charles Woodburn why this state of affairs has occurred considering it was hardly a revolutionary design that the yard had already built in slightly different form for the Brazilian Navy.

        I have a hunch the former MP for Portsmouth South Mike Hancock must be chuckling to himself considering he would regularly ask the government to build some OPV in Portsmouth!

    • (Chris H) Tim – Your last line defines the real problem here. The BAE workers on the Clyde have been given ‘jobs for life’ with the expensive OPVs and now T26 and they are not up to snuff apparently. The concept of a ‘job for life’ removes the proper threat of removal if people do not perform to standards paid for by taxpayers and breeds a feeling of entitlement. As now demonstrated by the shipbuilders of the Clyde. Google British Leyland for how that works out – good of ten great car designs built by people who didn’t care and we wondered why they then fell apart or rusted while in showrooms.

      I was brought up in engineering to be told I was only as good as the last piece I built or the work I did. And yes I got fired for being lazy and it smartened me up to be a better worker. ‘Jobs for life’ is the total opposite of what we need now as we become a more global economy.

      • Fair point Chris H. I’ve worked in Manufacturing and Engineering and union and non-union workforces. I’ve seen people messed about like those on the Clyde with regular questions on their future and they have no care for the management or the job. I’ve worked with people who have job histories as long as 40 years in the same place and they behave like its theirs and they don’t stand for the mistakes of others. As long as staff feel valued and managers deal with those not pulling their weight including other managers then the company will do well.

  17. I’m trying to find the +ve in this. I can only hope for the sake of T26 that the R2 program was successful in restoring diminished ship building skills and preserving what it has restored! And that Cammell Laird’s T31 bid is not prejudiced by association.

  18. Tim,

    I have being saying something very similar for some time now and the RN can actually have a really strong force with 8-12 hull forms/

    16 RFA and Amphibs – Tide Class, 8 FFT, 8 JALS (solid stores amphibious)
    2 Carriers
    13 T26 (configured as ASW and AAW)
    25 T31 (Arrowhead)
    4 SSBN
    10 SSN
    48 – Patrol (safeboats mk6)
    128 – CB90’s
    128 – Atlas Mine Countermeasures (and harbour boats etc)
    64 – Pacific RHIBS
    16 – S2S connectors
    XX – Tugs and barges

    We end up with fewer major vessels than we currently have (70) but far more multipliers (systems).

    Surely we can build all of these over a 25 year period and if we sequence correctly this should cost no more than £3bn pa and give us the scale and drumbeat we need.

    Sadly this wont stop this shoddy work, but it will address some of the issues raised around investment, skills and commitment to the industry.

    What I find most disappointing about this country is the fact that once these industries become foreign owned the workers end up being some of the most productive in the world (take a look at our car industry). Why cant we do this for our own country just baffles and disappoints me.

  19. Did the Irish Navy have the same issues with their Samuel Beckett-class offshore patrol vessel at a fraction of the price? Same vessel, both without any aircraft hangers? For the same money they could have had 3 x Khareef-class corvettes.

  20. Questions need to be asked of the political leanings of the BAE workforce, statistically speaking a fair number of them are likely to be fully paid Scottish separatists.

    Hope I’m wrong but…some of this sounds like wilful sabotage to me.

  21. The so called skilled person who fitted those bolts or screwed up the wiring can easily be found and sacked the problem is they will inevitably find their way to another shipyard where much the same thing will happen apart from the welders “skilled”workers are taken on with no practical skills test whatsoever just their CV which is mostly b/s,you can tell them a mile off normally full of bluster telling everyone within earshot how good they are then they are given a job and nothing happens for ages they disappear ,when they are eventually found, normally after 2 days on a bender ,they will make every excuse not to to the job,not enough vent,not enough light,can’t find tools,haven’t been trained on this or that,scaffolding is in the way,no scaffolding the list goes on and on it is so bloody demoralising working with this type don’t get me wrong there are some good guys but they are few and far between.Now you would think they would be sacked then you would be wrong it takes months and the reason is all the navy wants is numbers they don’t seem to care whether people can do the job only that there are sufficient numbers on each boat in refit,the whole system is bonkers and now the crap has it the fan.

  22. This is a major failure of the BAe Quality Assurance System which is an ISO 9001 internationally recognised qualification. This can and should affect the whole BAe shipbuilding business.
    The ISO 9000 series covers all sorts of requirements that should be met to meet the requirements of a customer and to ensure continual improvement . So in this case work processes that should have happened or have been documented for traceability if an issue arises in future.

    SQEP- The person doing the work must be Suitably Qualified and Experienced.
    Tools- In date for calibration and traceable back through the testing process of the item (Torque Wrench??)
    Work Process documents that includes check and hold points for inspection and acceptance.
    Material certification – Traceability back to supplier and manufacturer for all materials used.

    Basically you shouldn’t have anyone you pulled off the street using an adjustable spanner or pair of stillsons to do up bolts that you bought from Screwfix, to two white knuckles torque tight.
    You should also have someone checking the quality of work and accepting it as satisfactory and signing it off as such when the job completes.
    It doesn’t look like any of that happened and whats worse is they tried to cover it up by gluing bolt heads back on, which wasn’t picked up by the QA inspector.

    • ISO 9000 certification just says your company has appropriate processes in place and are following them. It doesn’t claim to guarantee higher quality. Just says you have the building blocks in place.

      • (Chris H) Ron5 – Fair comment. Its actually all about consistency of quality rather than outright quality. When I was a senior logistics manager at Courtaulds we went through hoops and a lot of pain bringing in its forerunner BS5750. I always remember the senior approvals guy telling us the quality is up to us. He was concerned with seeing if we produced that quality 24 / 7. If we wanted to make crap widgets fine by him. But the day we produced a good widget we would be declassified … It made the point!

        I stand to be corrected but I believe the earlier incarnation of BS5750 was about screw threads and the obvious need for consistency or no nuts would ever fit any bolts….

  23. Great point Gunbusters, it really is a massive failure all round.

    Shocking all the same – I really did think the bad old days of British manufacturing were over. Do people not have any pride in their work. Unfair to label the whole workforce with the same brush, but perhaps its all a bit too comfortable.

    I would ask any person working on military contracts to stand up and do the job properly, it may well be that your son, daughter, husband, wife or grandchildren’s survival may well rest upon the quality of your work. You just never know.

  24. BAE systems proud record of shipbuilding, no wondered can’t win export orders.

    See another Watchkeeper UAS has crashed, taking the total to five so far. The crash site was about a mile away from a school close to the airport.

    So with desert hawk about to be scrapped and Watchkeeper still not in service we may in a position where the British army has no operational UAS capability.

    • Watchkeeper isn’t a Bae product. It’s made by Thales a French company.

      So why drag it into the conversation?

      • Another example of a failed UK MOD procurement project.

        We cannot get the most basic of low risk projects using proven designs purchased off-the-shelf shelf.

        I doubt the UKDJ will publish an article on Watchkeeper and as it’s a free country I decided to add to this story.

        If you object well that’s just Tango Sierra.

  25. Unfortunately Gunbuster having worked in the Construction Industry for 30 years and having seen the implementation of QA and ISO 9001 etc all these papers processes do not get the work done. We now live in a country where the people doing the work are largely subcontract, semi skilled at best so they might have some training (normally shortened to save costs) but they might be laid off in a moment. They are largely supervised and managed by inexperienced graduates who tick QA boxes. These graduates are not supplemented by time served skilled workers so they have no chance to learn about the “nuts and bolts” literally.
    This reliance on subcontract labour engenders a feeling that they don’t matter and they are right. Why give a sh-t when so little commitment is offered by the employer. Of course in industries where the public sector are the main client you are at the whim of the most bureaucratic, incompetent and wasteful organisation there is and the race to the bottom continues. Ironically as others have pointed out a proper procurement programme with perhaps 2 or 3 competing yards being able to see a firm commitment by Government to order Xno. of ships per year over 25 years or so would be able to invest long term in training, equipment and infrastructure. This is never going to happen in the UK and instead another new paper process will be developed to guarantee quality.

    • Spot on, we need a proper 25 year strategy, we all keep shouting this from the rooftops in unison … It’s called stating the bleeding obvious .. but successive governments of both colours just don’t give a sh*it regarding defence. They are only interested in their turn on watch, not a thourgh long term strategy …

      I guess you simply can’t expect common sense from any political party.

    • SJB- I have been on the receiving end of the multi page T&C that BAe push out to sub cons and what is required of them. Certificates of Conformity, SQEP, Audits on demand, etc…the list goes on and on.
      Its funny how they circle the wagons when its their own QA that has the issue.
      Anyway. I agree ISO doesn’t get the work done…it does allow you to set up your organisation to deliver what the customer wants , how the customer wants it. I believe that BAe have corporately forgotten that the MOD is the customer and the customer is always right. The BAe way is often quoted to sub cons as the method to follow because we (BAe) are one of the “biggest and best”. From personal experience this is not the case on a number of fronts and their own arrogance has come back on this work to punch them straight in the chops.

  26. Bolt heads glued back on aren’t teething problems, they are a serious sign that that the ball was well and truly dropped during construction. This and the other issues highlighted show project management has clearly failed at multiple points in the build.
    Very concerning when you consider that engineering inspection and quality verification checks are constantly taking place as the work progresses … worrying!

    Let’s hope this isn’t asymptomatic of the rest of the River 2’s guys.

    I do hope BAE systems are paying compensation to the MOD as well as the full cost of rectifying the defects.

    Something tells me that the Tax payer will get stiffed with the bill somehow, we generally do!

    • John am 100% sure ship.builders know more about than anyone on this page many times over ….when a new cruise is built within weeks it’s the norm for ,many faults to be found the first ,6 months

  27. This country needs two distinctive types of Navy vessels . Warships as in the case of the type 45 and 13 supporting Frigates destroyers . and a smaller vessel around 3500 tonnes , helicopter capable (with hangar, )patrol ship . It needs a least 12 of these to fulfill its basic peacetime commitments. . Where these ships are built in the UK will always be politically sensitive but they must continue to be built here. Service life of these ships should be at least 40 years . Its not acceptable to see ships like Ocean being sold off so cheaply after such a short service life. That ship should have been stationed permanently in the West Indies as a disaster relief and maritime HQ ship for example

  28. Whilst it is easy to think back to the days of British mass engineering and the terrible work done on cars and electronics that ultimately killed the industry, i doubt it is the problem here. The car industry was down to cutting corners to save cost and not fully supervising the workers, plus general poor morale.

    Here we have a massively overpriced ship, so no need for BAe to cut corners and one based on an existing design, just stretched a little. Its like building a 5 door car after building the 3 day for a few years.

    What i can’t thinking is it lists 100 defects, which to me doesn’t sound many, i assume 1 nut glued on is one defect and 2 would be 2. Considering the complexity of even a small ship, it doesn’t sound too major.

    Look over the pond at the f35 or the various light frigate projects and you can see they are plagued with teething problems, so this news doesn’t overly worry me. Only concern is what happens if the t26 is delayed a year or two and how does this interact with the existing vessels going out of service date.

    What i don’t get is why it has taken this long for the RN to find the problems, surely they should do some form of quality inspection before accepting a ship.

  29. Bearing in mind that the ship is about to go into drydock it points to the defects being rather more than some over tightened bolts, although how you manage to tighten a bolt so that the head comes off is beyond me. I think that there is a major quality issue here, I would very much like to think that it is just incompetence rather than malice, but how this kind of problem got past both the shipyard and the MOD inspectors is very worrying, not just for the rest of the class but also for the T26.

  30. Are you sure Tyne being re-activated is to do with Forth problems??

    The government announced the batch 1 ships were to be retained in service some time ago.

    I wonder if this blog has been subject to a practical joke. Or someone mixing up two different, unconnected events to make a negative story?

    • Didnt the MOD state that they were placing the batch1 in mothball rather than selling, in case needed for fishery patrols post brexit? Which would indicate that they were not intended to be retained in active service

      • To me at least there were mixed messages. The politician said money was to be put aside from the Brexit fund to keep them capable of being used and the Admiral said he was going to keep them operationally ready.

    • I was thinking the same thing. What with impending refits for the 45s and the RN manning shortages it might just be that we need the hull in the water.
      Also interested in what I interpret to be a refit for HMS Severn.

    • The RN did say they would like to have 3 of the Type 1 ships, probably to ensure the Caribbean and Indian Ocean had a PV. But that would have nothing to do with stripped bolts and such.

      • Would like to keep is a bit different from actually keeping. Unless the manning and budget problems have solved themselves, extra ships are a no go. We can’t even man the ships we currently have.

        A delay isn’t so bad to be fair, they are pretty pointless vessels that are a minor upgrade on the batch1, but not enough of an upgrade to make them useful for anything other than flag showing. Modern day policing role needs a helicopter and without a hanger or enough air frames, they won’t get a perm one and so can’t fulfil the role fully effectively.

        • Do we actually know what the manning situation is? Not being able to crew our existing vessels, e.g. having a T23 permanently alongside already, just might mean that we can crew extra OPVs.

          If a T23 needs 185 crew then if we can’t find crew her it doesn’t mean that we are 185 short, it might mean that we are 95 short (for instance) which would leave 90 sailors with no ship. That’s enough to crew all 3 River Batch 1s. I’m not saying this is the case, just pointing out that there are possibilities.

          moving T23 crew to Rivers might even be quite an attractive option for the government in terms of playing its silly/misleading numbers and soundbites games. They already claim a growing navy which can only be true if total tonnage is taken as the metric rather than number of ships. If they were now to focus on boosting the number of smaller less capable vessels, leanly manned, and potentially at the cost of tying up additional frigates to reallocate their crew, they can probably get to a point where they can claim a growing number of ships as well.

          If anyone is planning a boating holiday in the Norfolk Broads then I suggest that they take it soon. I think the next step is probably for HMG to take Hoseasons into public ownership and transfer all their boats to the RN – massive uplift in number of vessels in the RN – job done. At least no one would be too far from a fridge to keep their beers cold.

        • I wouldn’t agree that the R2s are pointless. They represent a step increase in capability over the R1s: 24knot top speed, 5500 nm range, capable of carrying 6 containers and 50 RM and able to host a Merlin for short periods.
          https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2016/06/thoughts-batch-2-river-class/
          With the auto 30mm, miniguns and Kevlar protected magazine they could be useful inshore force protection vessels. The crane – hanger decision seems to me to be a conscious trade off.

  31. Hmmmmmm! Bolts being “glued back on”!! Make me want to re-think about my zeal for the LM/BAE Type 26 Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC)–Although thank God, they will be built here in Canada if……selected!!

  32. Evening all
    So, tight timelines to get a first of class out of the door to show a growing Royal Navy.
    Both MoD and BAES are to blame here. This is what’s known the the trade as a technical deficit.
    Deliver to the customer, on time and fix later.
    There was a US film made in the 80’s which mocked this, cars off the factory line – on time but to a poor standard.
    Engineers are only partly to blame for this, they don’t want to be associated with poor workmanship but the rush to get the ship out of the door in what otherwise, floating airfield excempt, was a pretty poor year for the RN shows what pressure the system is under.
    Blame – Politicians, MoD and BAES.
    Victims – taxpayers, sailors and the engineers who now have to solve the problem.
    Lazy

  33. It’s an OPV for goodness sake not cutting edge technology. Shoddy workmanship and mismanagement. Simple as that. The shipyard must share the blame for handing over such a shambles of a vessel which the MOD deem to be a warship!

    • Given the UK has promised an extra £20bn a year for the NHS funded by debt, brexit savings and taxation I doubt they will be able to increase defence spending significantly over the 2% of GDP.

      We can dream, but that’s all it is a dream

      • (Chris H) Mike Saul – The NHS currently takes about 9.8% of GDP and this will rise by 3.4% to some 10.2%. This puts us in the middle ranking of European countries and some 25% below what the USA spends on its private system.Sweden for example spends some 13%.
        So we are hardly being over generous in our Health Care (not that the NHS doesn’t need to be far more efficient of course).

        This does of course put into perspective our Defence expenditure of 2.1% which is utterly shameful.

        • Chris I agree we have not spent enough on healthcare in the past, plus the social care model is broken.

          The trouble is we are stuck with the NHS no matter what, is the NHS the best way to deliver healthcare to citizens of the UK?

          The UK government has limited resources it’s need to decide what it’s priorities are.

          Defence is not a priority

          • I think the social care model would cope if people remembered the principle of sacrifice for the common good and lived their lives in this spirit. Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country? I would argue that the best reason of all for increasing spending on defence is that the armed services embody this ethic.

      • “We can dream, but that’s all it is a dream”

        I agree. Taking defence from 2% to 3% would be about another £23bn. There’s already an argument breaking out about how the government is going to fund the extra £20bn for the NHS plus, in line with the figures Chris just gave, the NHS is saying even that extra £20bn (3.4%) is not enough to effect any actual improvement and for that they need an extra 4.0% not 3.4% which would be another £3.5bn on top of the £20bn. I really would be amazed if we see any extra funding for defence.

        • I always ask myself the same question.

          How can we afford to giveaway 18.5 billion pounds this year alone on overseas aid when our nearest counterpart in Europe spends around half of this amount while our defence budget and N.H.S is in such poor shape.

          It’s not just the threat from Russia we need to concern ourselves with, but the endless potholes in the roads that i keep having to avoid!

          For any politicians following this thread, CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME.

  34. Delays to Forth notwithstanding I see it looks like Severn is going into refit. To be optimised as a MCV mother ship for remote mine clearance vessels perhaps? And her 20mm given to Ranger or Trumpeter to beef up the Gibralter squadron. Maybe Admiral Baldrick does have a cunning plan?

  35. Wow-surely a record number of comments. Any engineering or construction project of complexity will have snags to deal with but in this case the list seems serious and excessive. The other problem-and it is a worldwide issue, is that they simply do not make Tradesmen like they used to. In my day apprentices did 4 or 5 years on low pay and often suffered a smack or two from their Journeyman! The worry expressed by many above though, is only too real-what of the Type 26 going forward. Bae need to tighten up on quality control during the course of the project and do their own snag lists before handing on to client

  36. Many feel this is BAe but where are the Unions in this, if they really were focused on protecting jobs they should be instrumental in finding out who is responsible and demand disciplinary action taken. By doing nothing they are not protecting the jobs of many of the decent workers in the industry. How can the GMB remain completely silent on these type of issues and still demand work go to these yards.

  37. I’ve been going on in the past about the quality of Swan Hunters work on the Tyne. Ships built on time, to cost to top quality MOD standard.Bae are getting top money for what I say is criminally neglection work. Supposing somethink had blown up and this ship was sent on an emergency task.As happened during the Falklands and Ark Royal was sent straight from the shipyard (Swans) to the South Atlantic )
    Bolts shearing off ,life rafts not operating ,this is criminal negligence.
    The bolt heads been glued on isn’t a craftsmanship issue, no skilled man in my day, (I served my time for 4 year’s )would have pulled this stroke, it’s the sort of thing an
    unsupervised apprentice would do.Are the ” craftsmen” 2 year dilutes ie modern apprentices who are shaming the expression British craftsmanship.

  38. Its almost impossible to sack someone with union representation from a dockyard, this is largely why Bae have so many temporary staff. Bae needs to make it known how many people no longer work for them as a result of this disgraceful shambles. Ofcouse there are always teething problems and a ship is never completely finished, but you only have to look at the delays together with the resources available to know the this is a completely different level of incompetence.

  39. It’s not a uniquely Scottish problem with the workmanship, plenty of English accents around the site too. The boltheads and other problems shouldn’t have happened, but at the end of the day these faults are down to a few disgruntled people who lacked competent supervision. In their defence, it’s not a great environment to work in, everything is being run down and there’s not a great amount of hope for the future, the whole political backdrop sucks and management is always too top heavy and separate from the yard. Chances are the procurement process will never represent long term value for the taxpayer. War is a racket after all.

  40. Tell BAE to look after the Aircraft orders. Take them out of any involvement in the National shipbuilding Strategy and let the yards get on with it

  41. “UPDATE: We had reported that HMS Forth was to be dry docked to rectify issues and that she had been handed back to BAE Systems, BAE have since told us that this isn’t correct.”

    Says it all, really.

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