Michael Fallon has visited the Ferguson Marine shipyard at Port Glasgow where he remarked upon the opportunity for the Clyde yard to build the new frigates.
Industry has been invited to provide high level plans to build an initial order of five ships at a maximum average price of £250 million per ship.
The Defence Secretary has committed to visiting all of the UK’s major shipyards in the run-up to industry bringing forward its solutions for the Type 31e Frigate.
With the Government saying they are committed to building the Type 31e in the UK, Fallon indicated during his visit to the yard that Ferguson has the opportunity to compete for this latest programme to build ships for the Royal Navy.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
“With our cutting-edge Type 26 frigates already being built on the Clyde, I know Scottish skilled engineers will relish the chance to compete to build a brand new class of warships for the growing Royal Navy. We want to make the most of the renaissance in UK shipbuilding, delivering the latest ships that will help protect our nation and our interests across the world.”
Just so we’re clear on one of the points raised in the speech, the Royal Navy isn’t growing, see here.
This comes after the owners of the other yards on the Clyde, BAE, decided not to bid for assembly of the new frigates.
As we reported yesterday, BAE Systems has announced a partnership with Cammell Laird, who would ‘Prime, build and assemble’ the vessels at their Merseyside facility while the Clyde will focus on the Type 26 Frigates.
If the bid is successful, Cammell Laird would be main contractor with BAE providing design and combat systems.
BAE themselves say that shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be full until the mid 2030s while the Ministry of Defence want the first of the new Type 31 Frigates in service by 2023.
The MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement by spreading shipbuilding across civil and naval yards.
To this end, the government are implementing the results of an independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker which recommended that the Type 31 Frigate build be spread across the UK, with blocks and components being constructed in yards in both Scotland and England.
The National Shipbuilding Strategy is intended to be a “radical, fundamental re-appraisal of how we undertake the shipbuilding enterprise in the UK, intending to place UK naval shipbuilding on a sustainable long term footing”.
BAE themselves signalled their own reluctance to bid for the Type 31 Frigate as prime contractor due to concerns of a “race to the bottom” on price. Speaking to The Herald here, BAE managing director Iain Stevenson said:
“We do want to be involved in Type 31. But we have questions. Does it have a budget? What are the timescales. We have not got solid facts. Type 31 could be a race to the bottom.
If it is a front price contract people might bid for it to win and it and it might put them out of business. We would not, because we are BAE Systems.”
In a press release signalling a their intention not to bid to build the vessels BAE say:
“BAE Systems is focused on the manufacture and delivery of the two QE Class carriers, the five River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) and the first three City class Type 26 warships, as well as continuing to develop and upgrade combat management systems on all Royal Navy ships. Taking account our current and future workload, including Type 26, our shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be full until the mid 2030s.”