Preparatory work has started on the fourth of five new Offshore Patrol Vessels being built on the Clyde.
It is understood that the yards on the Clyde will now build 18 vessels of varying types, instead of the originally promised 13.
After various reports in the media, we reached out to BAE who confirmed that “preparatory” work has now started on the fourth River class vessel.
The two additional vessels, hulls four and five, were announced as part of the last Strategic Defence & Security Review.
The first of the five new vessels, HMS Forth, is expected to be handed over to the Royal Navy in 2017.
The Offshore Patrol Vessels have been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction.
The Strategic Defence & Security Review states:
“We will buy two further new Offshore Patrol Vessels, increasing the Royal Navy’s ability to defend UK interests at home and abroad.”
The vessels will be used by the Royal Navy to undertake various tasks including border protection roles, including anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, fisheries patrols, and immigration law enforcement.
This comes as a report has found that the Scottish economy ‘cannot do without’ naval shipbuilding contracts.
An economic analysis of the Scottish defence sector by the Fraser of Allander Institute revealed that 5,943 jobs and £162.7 million in wages are supported by BAE’s yards on the Upper Clyde; and 3,870 jobs and £105.9 million in wages are supported by the Rosyth dockyard in Fife.
The report also presents a challenge for the Scottish Government to demonstrate how they would sustain these jobs and wages in the absence of MoD contracts in a future independent Scotland.
GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said:
“This report was commissioned following the delays to the type-26 programme and because of the long-term frustrations felt by our members across the sector after years of being used as a political football.
One job on the Upper Clyde alone supports an additional 1.18 jobs across Scotland so for the future of Scottish shipbuilding and our long-term economic prosperity it is imperative that the UK government makes good on the promised frigate programme.
Furthermore, and with a second independence referendum a real possibility, the Scottish government needs to demonstrate to our members how they would plan to sustain their jobs, wages, pensions, skills and local communities without MoD investment.
This report is a reality check and shows that the fragile Scottish economy cannot do without the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds in wages supported by navy shipbuilding contracts.”
Manufacturing of the Type 26s was initially expected to start in 2016, the steel will however be cut for the first Type 26 in Summer 2017.
The issue of UK naval contracts on the Clyde has become controversial after the 2014 Independence Referendum and even more so recently when several parties indicated that the work would not go to an independent country.
“No warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there.”
The full statement, confirming what many had already known, was made by then Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Phillip Dunne in response to a question from Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, regarding the Type 26 frigates.
“What I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman is that, had the independence vote gone the way that he and his colleagues would have liked, no warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there; we made that very clear.
As it is, as I have just confirmed to the House, we will be proceeding with the construction of eight complex Type 26 warships on the Clyde as and when the programme is ready.”
Mr Dunne said the UK government’s commitment to Scotland and the Royal Navy was “crystal clear”:
“Let me assure the shipyard workers on the Clyde, this government remains absolutely committed to the Type-26 programme and to assembling the ships on the Clyde.”
A MoD spokesperson said:
“The Government is committed to building ships on the Clyde and to the Type 26 programme. Over the next decade, we will spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy warships.
As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will build two new Offshore Patrol Vessels on the Clyde, maintaining Scottish shipbuilding capability ahead of the start of the Type 26 build.
We will also consult with Industry and Trade Unions as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which will set the UK shipbuilding industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”
Ahead of the announcement, the SNP and others had said that any reduction in the number of Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde would be a “betrayal” of the workforce, with some MP’s even going so far as to claim “promises were broken”.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon when announcing the contract for the first three of the five patrol vessels, said:
“UK warships are only built in UK shipyards. This multi-million-pound contract shows our commitment to investing in new ships for the Royal Navy and maintaining in the UK the expertise needed to build the warships of the future. It will benefit the dedicated workers of the Clyde, their families and the local economy in Glasgow.
This sort of investment by the UK government is vital for the sustainment of shipbuilding in the city and the hundreds of specialist manufacturing and engineering roles that play an important role in providing war-fighting capability for the Royal Navy.”
The order and construction of the new OPV’s will help sustain skilled jobs on the Clyde over the next few years untilt he Type 26 build begins, ensuring that the yards remain viable.