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UK Finalizes $1.9B Naval Auxiliary Contract with BMT, Navantia and H&W

fleet solid support ship
Courtesy UK MoD

Published Jan 19, 2023 12:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

A £1.6 billion ($1.9 billion) contract has been awarded to Team Resolute to manufacture the vessels providing munitions, stores and provisions to the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates.

Creating 1,200 UK shipyard jobs, hundreds of graduate and apprentice opportunities, and an expected 800 further jobs across the UK supply chain, Team Resolute, comprising BMT, Harland & Wolff and Navantia UK, will deliver three Fleet Solid Support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).

Set to invest around £100 million into UK shipyards, including £77 million of infrastructure at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast and Appledore shipyards, and a further £21 million in skills and technology transfer from Navantia UK, Harland & Wolff will create one of the most advanced shipyards in the UK - significant for future export and domestic shipbuilding.

With around 900 jobs alone to be created at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast site, the contract is a welcome boost for Northern Ireland, bringing naval shipbuilding back to Belfast.

The Prime Minister visited Harland & Wolff last month, following the announcement that Team Resolute had won the competition for the future support ships in November.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This contract is a significant boost to the UK’s historic shipbuilding industry, balancing shipbuilding across the Union.

“Creating jobs and prosperity, Team Resolute is bringing shipbuilding back to Belfast, developing a modern, resilient and thriving shipbuilding industry that will support naval and commercial shipbuilding into the future.”

Expanding and enhancing Harland & Wolff’s shipbuilding facilities, the FSS fleet will be the first ships built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast since MV Anvil Point was launched in 2002.

Strengthening shipbuilding in England and Northern Ireland, this contract will complement existing Type 26 and Type 31 frigate construction contracts in Scotland, bolstering the UK’s shipbuilding capabilities.

The majority of the blocks and modules for the ships will be constructed at Harland & Wolff’s facilities in Belfast and Appledore, following the entirely British crafted design by the Bath-based company BMT. Build work will also take place at Navantia’s shipyard in Cadiz in Spain, with the final assembly for all three 216-metre-long vessels – each the length of two Premier League football pitches – to be completed at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast yard.

On behalf of Team Resolute, Group CEO of Harland & Wolff, John Wood, said: “This programme will bring £77 million of investment into the Harland & Wolff shipyards and create around 1,200 Harland & Wolff shipyard jobs, spring boarding Harland & Wolff back into the naval shipbuilding sphere and significantly enhancing our export opportunities for the future.

“This is the last chance to capture the excellent shipbuilding skills that remain in Belfast and Appledore before they are lost and pass them on to the next generation of UK shipbuilders. UK Government has seized this opportunity and in doing so ensured the long-term survival of our shipyards and significantly bolstered sovereign shipbuilding capability.”

Aiming to deliver 200 further education opportunities on graduate placements and apprentice programmes, the contract will build on the Prime Minister’s commitment to grow the economy by supporting thousands more supply chain jobs across the UK. Harland & Wolff’s welding academy is set to train 300 new UK welders during the contract, with 120 highly-skilled jobs supported at BMT.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The award of this major UK Government contract is fantastic news for Northern Ireland and the UK shipbuilding industry. 

 “Harland and Wolff is iconic worldwide for its shipbuilding history, and the creation of hundreds of jobs through this contract as well as training opportunities will ensure that Belfast remains a key player in the shipbuilding industry of the future.”

Delivering on ambitions to bolster UK shipbuilding as laid out in the National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh, the contract aims to deliver significant capital investment in the UK while providing ships which are essential to the Carrier-led Maritime Strike Group.

The ships will be the second longest UK military vessels behind the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. They will have commonality with the RFA’s Tide class fleet tankers, also built to a British BMT design. The majority of the three ships’ build will take place in the UK, and the contract will increase industrial productivity, and develop the domestic supply chain and workforce while improving the industry’s environmental sustainability.

Unite Union Representative, Joe Passmore, said:

“This is an historic moment for shipbuilding in Belfast. We campaigned for Harland & Wolff with a view to bringing new infrastructure and knowledge into our shipyards, and FSS will create jobs, skills and opportunities for young people in Northern Ireland. We continue to wrestle with a capacity shortage in shipyards and we believe that by unlocking the full potential in Belfast, we can help to secure a bright future for shipbuilding in the UK.”

Production is due to start in 2025, with recapitalisation and yard improvements starting immediately. All three support ships are expected to be operational by 2032.

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