The first steel has been cut on the fourth of five new Offshore Patrol Vessels being built on the Clyde.
After earlier reports that work on hull four was due to begin in November, we reached out to BAE who confirmed that “preparatory” work had started on the fourth River class vessel.
Now, media released by BAE shows steel being cut on the fourth 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. Critics, the UK Defence Journal included, have raised concerns that they’re severely over priced and lack important features, such as a helicopter hangar.
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.”
The order and construction of the new OPV’s will help sustain hundreds of skilled jobs on the Clyde until the Type 26 build begins, ensuring that the yards remain viable.
The vessels were described at a Defence Select Committee meeting a vessels “the Royal Navy does not want or need”.