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It has emerged that the sourcing of UK steel is to be a policy for naval shipbuilding in the UK.

The information comes to light through a written response to a question asked by MP Stephen Doughty.

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Answer of 20 January 2016 to Question 22740, what steps his Department is taking to encourage and facilitate the supply of steel from UK sources for the (a) Type 26 and (b) Type 31 frigate programmes.”

The question was answered by Philip Dunne:

“In the main, Ministry of Defence (MOD) requirements for steel are sourced by our prime contractors taking into account cost, time and quality. The MOD has issued new policy guidance to ensure, as far as we are able to within EU procurement legislation and the Government’s overarching priority of value for money, that we are addressing the barriers that prevent UK steel suppliers from competing on a level playing field with international suppliers. This emphasises the importance of increased pre-market engagement, including industry days and the signalling of future requirements for steel, bringing prime contractors and steel producers together to facilitate supply chain opportunities. I have also written to our main defence contractors to highlight the new policy guidelines and seek their assistance and support in implementing them.”

No steel suppliers have yet been selected or orders placed for the Type 26 Global Combat Ships or Light General Purpose Frigates. The sourcing of steel for these programmes will take account of the new policy.”

It had also been revealed earlier this year that only 6% of the steel used in the Queen Elizabeth class came from overseas. Over the years, the project has involved a number of production teams, including research and development, technical and production staff from five UK sites and mills.

Alongside the mills, technical and supply chain experts worked closely with BAE to provide more than 90% of the steel used in the build. Tata Steel also worked closely with key suppliers including the UK’s leading independent service centre for the shipbuilding industry, Dent Steel.

Tata Steel supplied steel used in everything from the hull of the ship to the 130 tonne ski jump. Tata Steel also developed three new steel grades, FH36, EH46 and ‘Install Plus’. The new grades are lighter and stronger than previous types and allow the Queen Elizabeth class to use less fuel.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said:

“94% of the steel used to build the two aircraft carriers that this government is bringing into service came from UK mills.  The rest was specialist steel which could not be sourced here in the UK.”

A Government spokesperson said:

“No-one should be in any doubt that – across all of Government’s major procurements – we are working hard to make sure that wherever possible, British suppliers have a fighting chance of competing for and winning contracts.

UK suppliers have provided significant quantities of steel for major defence equipment procurement programmes and new government guidelines will help UK steel suppliers to compete effectively with international suppliers for major projects, including those in defence.”

34 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully they can help out uk steel, if they had continued a steady and sure policy of building ships and keeping the fleet at around 50 ships our steel industry wouldn’t have been in so much shit.

  2. There is currently 74 ships in the royal navy, plus however many there are in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. As such 50 seems pretty reasonable, although the navy might not be happy with the cut of 24 ships.

  3. A fleet of 50 ships is not sustainable in this current world climate and as our dependancies have reduced so has the surface fleet. An ideal number would be 30 but will struggle to maintain that. 8 x T26 plus 10 (?) T31 frigates to be build plus the T45s in service and diminishing T23s and odds and sods and that’s it!

    • A UK company would get contract to supply the steel but that’s all, no steel plants left able to supply for RN boats in UK!

  4. We can afford and man a fleet of 40 escorts as long as we are willing to compromise in other areas.
    A fleet of 15 T26 (retiring the T45 as and when it is out of service) alongside a fleet of 25 T31 light frigates is very doable (circa 6k personnel)but this means we need to remove all Hunt/Sandown and River class types and rationalise our Amphibious capabilities into a joint SSS/Amphib capability such as Karel Doorman type ship.

    As with anything compromises need to be made and for me – more escorts and the removal of the standalone MHVC fleet in prefernce to the Atlas Arcims set up is that compromise. This will not happen overnight and by the time it does happen remote technologies will be able to do MHVC to a high standard.

  5. I hope you’re right, and the vast majority is sourced in the UK. However I didn’t read anything in your article that convinced me that the new frigates would definitely be made of British steel. I saw plenty of chat about improving their chances and giving them more support – that’s not the same. Still, fingers crossed

  6. NavyQ1 grade steel, with lightweight high strength armour plate British steelmakers of the 21St century are waiting for the call.

  7. Too late for the Scottish Mill at Dalzell we are NOW closed, we rolled the steel for the Queen Elizabeth. Where are the MOD going to use UK steel when the tory gov. has shut down the UK Mill’s

  8. It’s a shame that the government didn’t do more to help before Tata Steel were forced to ‘mothball’ (in reality close down) it’s plate mills and plate processing facilities.
    There are no realistic UK heavy plate producers now.

  9. This is rubbish.
    Under EU procurement directives the fact is the government cannot dictate the use of UK steel.

    If you want that guarantee vote to leave the EU…..it’s that simple

  10. Did you know, you cannot study for a degree or HNC in Metallurgy/Materials Science anywhere in Scotland where the bulk of these ships will be built.

  11. I’m afraid the ships will be built mostly with foreign steel as we don’t have any mills left open that roll steel plate.

  12. Good news all around I guess.

    I’m all for capping the amount of influence China has on our manufacturing industry and I speak with some experience here.

    Our sector needs kick started, it’s scandalous that we accepted China to be the world’s work shop and it’s scandalous that we allowed it to happen.

    We need the perfect balance of growing our expertise while looking after profit margins and in the UK its all too often that companies put profit before, jobs, skills etc

    As of the Navy, great point regarding the detrimental effect the steal industry has received due to the decreased numbers over the years in our fleet.

    Tbh, I’m more interested in increasing our combatant force from 13 ships to 20 minimum.

    Our big wigs have made some right royal screw ups and with 2 Aircraft carriers on the way our fleet will be ever more stretched and sending a £Billion pound Type 45 destroyer to a country like the Philippines to help in disaster relief is a farce in its own right.

    How we properly utilise our Navy will save us money and make relevant capability available and I don’t think we have been doing that.

  13. It’ll be sourced via a UK company & steel may be finished in UK but Sweden or even China will likely be where raw steel is produced thanks to lack of UK steel making capacity

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