Even just ten years ago shipbuilding in Scotland was described as a ‘feast and famine’ industry with effectively one or two shipyards hiring large numbers of new staff to work on a small number of new ships.

This would then be followed by the ‘famine’ stage, with layoffs and uncertainty over whether or not there will be any future orders and whether or not the yard would have to close. Now, I believe, the industry is facing a much-improved situation.


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Shipbuilding in Scotland is, primarily, structured to be able to meet the capability demands of the Royal Navy.

However, the National Shipbuilding Strategy aimed to encourage the shipbuilding side of the defence industry to reduce its dependence on the Ministry of Defence as a sole customer and concentrate effort in securing a wider potential share of the international market.

With the success of the Type 26 and Type 31 designs in the export market, this aim of reducing dependence on the Ministry of Defence is being achieved to a small degree.

Additionally, another aim of the National Shipbuilding Strategy was to reduce the reliance of the Ministry of Defence on one provider for the UK’s surface warships, namely BAE on the Clyde currently building the Type 26 Frigate and eventually, it is expected, the Type 83 Destroyer.

This shift in strategy has allowed Babcock at Rosyth to enter the business of complex warship construction in Scotland with the Type 31 Frigate and to sustain this down the line with the planned Type 32 Frigate.

The expected order book for Scottish military shipyards in the years ahead is as follows.

In short, the shipyards have work or are planning for work up to the 2040s. This work is primarily focused in Glasgow and in Rosyth and is almost entirely Royal Navy warships. One Ukrainian warship was also planned for Rosyth. It is expected that the second batch of Type 26 Frigates will be confirmed soon as long-lead items have already been ordered.

I have included the Type 32 Frigate in the below chart after remarks from the Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace stating, “In Rosyth, work is ongoing to build the facility needed to build the Type 31s and the subsequent Type 32s”, this is amid speculation that the vessel will be a follow-on product related to the Type 31 vessels being built at Rosyth.

Type 83 has also been included as, in my discussions with industry, I have been made aware that BAE Systems on the Clyde is the expected location for these to be built due to an “aspiration is to achieve continuous shipbuilding in Glasgow beyond the current planned number of eight vessels”.

Name

ClassLocation

Launch

HMS GlasgowType 26 (Batch 1)Glasgow
HMS CardiffType 26 (Batch 1)Glasgow
HMS BelfastType 26 (Batch 1)Glasgow
HMS BirminghamType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow
HMS SheffieldType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow
HMS NewcastleType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow
HMS EdinburghType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow
HMS LondonType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow
HMS VenturerType 31Rosyth
HMS BulldogType 31Rosyth
HMS CampbeltownType 31Rosyth
HMS FormidableType 31Rosyth
HMS ActiveType 31Rosyth
UNKNOWNUkrainian WarshipRosythUNCERTAIN*
UnknownType 32Rosyth
UnknownType 32Rosyth
UnknownType 32Rosyth
UnknownType 32Rosyth
UnknownType 32Rosyth
UnknownType 83**Glasgow
UnknownType 83Glasgow
UnknownType 83Glasgow
UnknownType 83Glasgow
UnknownType 83Glasgow
UnknownType 83Glasgow

*The status of the plan to order a warship for Ukrainian is unknown due to the ongoing invasion of the country. **Additionally, the listing of six Type 83 Destroyers presumes the Type 45 Destroyers are replaced on a one for one basis.

Today there is a steady ‘drumbeat’ of orders at two shipyards and the plans for future classes are well known, allowing for certainty, the retention of skills and greater investment. All of this contributes to bring down the cost of the vessels in the longer term. In short, there’s now more work for more people at more yards.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Poiuytrewq
Poiuytrewq
30 days ago

All very positive but actually ordering the follow-on batch of T26 Frigates is now well overdue.

Also, a more detailed outline of what the T32 will ultimately become is urgently required so industry can have confidence that these proposed vessels will actually materialise. For the drumbeat to continue at Rosyth the steel will need to be cut for the first T32 around 2026/2027. In UK Naval Shipbuilding timescales that is the blink on an eye.

donald_of_tokyo
donald_of_tokyo
27 days ago
Reply to  Poiuytrewq

Good point. But T32 is still in concept phase detailed design (each and every screws, wires, and process and quality-control procedure manuals) needs at least 1 full year or 2. Therefore, i guess Rosyth can happily think T32 will NOT come right after T31. Better to get other orders to save a few years. FSSS block build? MCM mother ship? BF cutters? As stated by Babcock themselves, the Frigate factory hall is NOT only for ship building. So, offshore work, wind-industry, and other options must be considered. If we are building Type-30s in 1year drumbeat, it will mean RN must… Read more »

Longtime
Longtime
30 days ago

As said on FB yesterday George, your written evidence to HMG is a good read.
Should publish on here or put up a Link. I imagine the regulars would like to give it a read.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
29 days ago

Great piece and with the subs being built at barrow it looks like 3 yards for major ships are secured for the time being. What should happen with larger ships, RFA, amphibious ships, survey vessels, national flagship etc should be the next plan to get up and running. A drum beat of them would be fantastically beneficial to industry and the RFA/navy. Hopefully a yard for them can be worked out also. There are also the smaller ship builders that quietly work away. If the navy can also keep repair yards with steady streams of work that should a bonus… Read more »

IwanR
IwanR
28 days ago

Is it possible to copy the FREMM method of supplying foreign customers with hulls that are currently being built for the Royal Navy? Fast delivery date for the customer at the cost of delivery dates for the Royal Navy. For the customer, it’s a better option than getting used ships when in dire need of vessels.

bill masen
bill masen
28 days ago

Can any of you maritime experts please enlighten me, Do ALL of our Destroyers, Frigates etc get built in Scotland?? Is there no other yards in England, Wales or Ulster that can build modern vessels.

donald_of_tokyo
donald_of_tokyo
27 days ago
Reply to  bill masen

None, if you are talking about escorts.

Cammel Laird bidded for T31, and they lost. If it is not for escort, but other vessels, Cammel Laird can do it, and Appledore is (re-)standing up (not sure about its future)

Actually, there are not many “shipbuilders” active in UK, although some dock-maintenance/modernization yards do exists; Portsmouth, Falmouth A&P, Scottish F&M, and (re-booted) Belfast H&W.

Of course, Barrow in Firness is in England is there (in addition to the Clyde BAES and Rosyth Babcock).

Last edited 27 days ago by donald_of_tokyo
bill masen
bill masen
27 days ago

Gracias, Merci, Danke, Spasiba, Arigato, Cheers. for the comprehensive reply.

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
27 days ago

Ukraine defence minister hinting that Britain has provided harpoon missiles to go with the Dutch coastal launchers.

Paul.P
Paul.P
25 days ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

Interesting. Thx. Was wondering if the Dutch were going to give them Block II Harpoon.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
24 days ago

As an ex-army man I am envious of the preservation of a national naval shipbuilding industry and a steady drumbeat of orders.

If you ignore the pathetic efforts of the newish company GDUK (a US spin-off) to build Ajax and variants in a former fork lift truck factory with inexperienced staff – then we only have BAE Systems capable of making AFVs – and they last built an AFV in 2003-4 (Trojan and Titan engineer tanks).

The Land equipment industrial strategy document has been commissioned two decades too late.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
20 days ago

MOD equals Why order when you can delay?