GMB, the union for shipbuilding workers, say the Conservative Government must not be allowed to downgrade British naval capability any more by ‘sneaking’ out of their obligation to build three auxiliary vessels.

The Ministry of Defence yesterday revealed it may only commission two new Fleet Solid Support ships – rather than the three that were expected.

The new ships are required to replenish the UK’s £6.3 billion aircraft carriers during active operations. The order could secure up to 6,700 shipyard and supply chain jobs if it was placed in the UK.

GMB says not only must the Government commit to building three ships – they must be built in UK yards.

Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer, said:

“This is a hugely disappointing decision by the Government – who have once again let down the UK’s shipbuilding communities. Not content with insisting these Royal Navy support ships are built overseas – now the pressure is on to build them in the UK they want to only build two.

What has this Government got against the UK shipbuilding industry? GMB demands the Government commit to three ships – and make sure they are built in UK yards.”

The MoD’s contract notice, published 16 May 2018, states that:

“The Commercially Supported Shipping Team is seeking to procure up to 3 in number Fleet Solid Support Ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), with a firm requirement for 2 ships and an Option for a further 1 ship.”

GMB’s research report on the Fleet Solid Support order, published April 2018, can be found here:

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David Steeper

Well since they will cost more to the MoD (but not the economy) if built here this is pretty easy to understand. Untill the UK treasury agrees to refund the MoD for the price difference between our yards and say the S.Koreans this will always be the choice.


I think the benefit to the economy is put at around £300m for three ship contract of £1b, so if a UK yard can deliver them for £1.3b then it makes sense to build in the UK. But I do beleive that their should not be a blank check for a UK build. ‘What has this Government got against the UK shipbuilding industry? GMB demands the Government commit to three ships – and make sure they are built in UK yards.”’ That statement alone would put me off placing a UK order, ‘demands’, so irrespective of cost, timely performance and… Read more »


“Scottish privilage” ? Taxpayer’s Money Matter !


That is a very good idea. I totally understand why the MOD would choose the lowest bid but I also understand that building them in the UK coast less overall than the amount initially paid for them. So refunding the MOD for the difference would give the MOD more incentive to award contracts to UK firms.

However we would still need the UK shipyards to actually bid to build them which they are looking likely to not do.

Dave Anderson

I hope these ships are built here too, and 3 of them!! But I have to say that with the carrier, OPV, Type 26, SSN and SSBN orders British shipbuilding ain’t doing bad!

Levi Goldsteinberg

I’m used to the government cutting orders on proposed ship classes but this must take the record for the quickest time it’s ever happened


(Chris H) No orders have been placed. Therefore no orders have been ‘reduced’. An order for 2 + 1 option is the order that looks like being placed. If we don’t need a third then no extra cost. If we do again no extra unit cost (possibly less).

Stephen G.

We definitely want these ships built in the U.K., and 3 of them. Use it as an opportunity to invest in British shipyards to make them competitive and efficient as possible. With the facilities and experience gained from building these large ships we will be able to start bidding for cruise ships like other European countries do, and actually make money in the long run.

Stephen G.

Also make it a rule that all Navy AND R.F.A. are built in Britain and in that way we will be able to have a decent sized, sustainable shipbuilding industry in Britain.


Where would they all be built? UK shipyards do not want to build the RFA ships so how do you go about forcing them against their will to do so?


Which UK shipyards do not want to build RFA ships? Do tell, please. There are five yards wanting to build the 3 fleet solid support ships. But in the past UK shipyards were forced out of this non-competition for the tankers, by their own government (Labour) before it had really started.

Lee H

Afternoon all This is politics at play. Day after announcing £2.5bn purchase of kit in U.K. yards and announcement of F-35B coming back to Marham a quiet contract notice reducing the number FSS from 3 to 2. This means that we will pay higher unit costs per ship and if the third does come off a higher cost for that as well. You cannot make this stuff up. They should just state 2 ships, take the flak and move on. This shows a distinct lack of confidence by both the MoD and DES – which is more worrying. What else… Read more »


Yeah, but the chances are say a South Korean tender will be 2/3rd the price for 2 as for 3, i.e. nearly pro rata, basically an off the shelf item tailored to fit. Whereas a UK one would be almost the same for 2 as for 3.

The conlcusion is that the tender is weighted against a UK tenderer with the sole purpose of discouraging any tenders at all from the UK. Then the UK Gov can say “we had no choice”.


there is no conpirasy against UK yards going on. If one puts in a quote and it’s competitive they will win, the preference will be to go local. The problem is this won’t happen and the UK yards would need a massive government subsidiary to be competitive and a order of 2 or 3 ships is hardly going to suddenly make them get loads more orders, since they will be non competitive again without the subsidiary. The country is broke, we have to accept that and move on.


Why do UK yards need a massive subsidy? As massive as foreign ones get?


The UK content. Design, so-called sensitive equipment and the rest, will be included with any UK bid, as to make them look more expensive. It really is bordering on criminal.


I would suggest that all those crying about U.K. ship yards have a read of this first.


Read it and it is poor. It just gives the bigger case of having ships built here. I suggest you read this: and You have to learn that a real shipbuilding strategy which this Country needs and deserves will invest in facilities where new technology brings the UK into competitive play in not just building grey ships for the Navy.


It’s an interesting read and some good points. However, we should not be in a position of having long gaps between orders of large vessels. If we had a proper industrial strategy, we could have a slow and steady build rate of amphibs, LPD, LPh and Rfa’s Allowing for investment in a large yard and new high tech facilities. THEN we would be in a position to bid for commercial work and become competitive. It’s all a question of wether we just want to look at the here and now, or the long term bigger picture and revive a lucrative… Read more »


That’s what Sir John Parker calls drumbeat.

We need
£1.5bn per annum for our Sub fleet (10+4)
£1bn per annum for our Warship Fleet (40)
£0.4bn per annum for Support Fleet
£0.1bn per annum for our small vessels fleet.

We must fund this and out of the so called £18bn annual defence equipment budget.

We need this in a post Brexit Britain that needs a sound manufacturing base. I like the tides and the Koreans have done a great job, but we can do a great job as well and our government need to support some of our poorest communities.


Those poorest communities will surprise all too. The UK is not London, we sell ourselves short, but we need and will achieve success unless there is some sort of agenda at work here, those 3 THREE ships will be built here because it makes sense looking at it from every angle.


The MOD along with all government departments are great at taking the wind out of any UK industry’s sails. Sheffield Forgemasters (nuclear), UKindustry/MOD alliance, renewables, UK steel making, bridges, trains, planes etc. If only we called these industries, service or banking. Shipbuilding renamed financial service. I feel it’s not about value for the UK taxpayer which is never felt especially if built abroad, but that anything that looks old fashioned has no value to some, unless it is wasting a fortune on doing up Westminster Palace or 14 billion on a computer system for the NHS that never worked, but… Read more »


Beats, not beat.


Could it not be the case that building only 2 Fleet Solid Support Ships could work out more expensive in many ways in the short and long-term? This could be in the form of 2 ships costing more than the three ship order per ship. Two ships trying to carry out the tasks of 3 ships, I.E, worked harder (along with the ship’s crew), at sea more often, less maintenance leading to more expensive maintenance than first expected over their lifespan and indeed, leading to a shorter lifespan. On the shipbuilding side of things, this could lead to fewer jobs,… Read more »