The All Party Parliamentary Group for Shipbuilding and Ship Repair has launched a report on the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
Based on evidence from experts in the field, the report calls on the Government to ensure domestic yards receive the Fleet Solid Support Ship Contract in order to retain the skills needed to construct, refit and upgrade complex warships in the future. The report states that the industry is already facing significant redundancies as the aircraft carrier programme runs down, with the subsequent loss of leading-edge skills.
Once lost, the report argues, these skills cannot be quickly regained and the UK’s sovereign capability to produce complex warships will suffer accordingly, as will the UK’s ability to project naval power.
The APPG states that “it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the Royal Navy receives its equipment from a leading-edge supply chain and support structure and is therefore able to maintain its operational advantage”.
The report can be downloaded here but for the sake of brevity, here are the recommendations.
Chair of the APPG, The Rt. Hon Kevan Jones MP, has called on Government to “ensure the £1bn contract for Fleet Solid Support Ships is handed to British yards in order to preserve UK’s capability to design and construct warships in the future”.
General Secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) warns that “as carrier programme runs down, closures and redundancies are already starting to blight shipyards and supply chain”.
Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan states that “with the appointment of my Rt. Hon friend Penny Mordaunt as Defence Secretary, this is the ideal time for the Government to reconsider its current position and signal to the private sector that the Government is committed to providing a steady stream of work to UK shipyards and the supply chain”.
The foreword of the report is displayed below and was signed off by Kevan Jones MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Chris Stephens MP, Luke Pollard MP and Paul Sweeney MP.
“As an island nation, the United Kingdom’s security and prosperity has long been associated with the seas. With the UK preparing to leave the European Union, our country’s maritime dependence is more apparent than ever and uncertainty about the UK’s sovereign capability to produce warships remains. The National Shipbuilding Strategy outlined the Government’s aspirations to reform naval procurement by reintroducing greater competition into UK shipbuilding.
UK shipbuilding is primarily driven by military sources of demand and long-term national security considerations. Following its inquiry, this APPG recognises the political case for retaining the UK’s sovereign capability to produce warships. We further recognise that the UK’s position as a producer of world-class warships should be understood more widely. UK Shipbuilding has evolved from the smokestack and panel-beating industry it once was. It is now at the very forefront of innovative technologies and capabilities, as can be observed by the export success of the Type 26 frigate.
However, the current ‘feast or famine’ nature of military demand threatens our ability to maintain the sovereign capability to produce warships. The National Shipbuilding Strategy significantly reduces the scope of ships that the UK is qualified to build and threatens the long-term viability of our fragile shipyards. Its approach to naval procurement is not novel. Its concepts have been tried, tested and have failed before. The very shape of today’s UK shipbuilding industry is a result of rationalisation, following a period of policies urging shipbuilders to compete with each other and yards going bust.
Furthermore, the Government’s inability to provide certainty for industry through a secure timeline of contracts endangers the UK’s position as a world leader in shipbuilding. Certainty around future orders, driving industrial drumbeat, would enable private sector shipbuilders and the wider supply chain to invest in infrastructure, facilities and emerging naval technology, thus renewing the UK’s competitive advantage.
Secondary economic impact and tax returns to the Exchequer would provide further benefit to the UK as a whole. It must also be further understood that the benefits of investment in shipbuilding are not confined to historical shipbuilding areas alone. Shipbuilding and the supply chain will not make required investments unless the business case stacks up.
Shipbuilding is a hugely capital-intensive industry with one of the highest barriers to entry of any major industry in the world. Consolidating a position within the market and securing a reputation for excellence requires strong co-operation between Government, industry and the research and development base. The industry already faces significant redundancies as the aircraft carrier programme runs down, with the subsequent loss of leading-edge skills. Once lost, these skills cannot be quickly regained and the UK’s sovereign capability to produce complex warships will suffer accordingly, as will the UK’s ability to project naval power”