A major review into building ships for the Royal Navy has recommended that BAE Systems, which has two shipyards on the Clyde, should not have the monopoly on constructing new ships and that future contracts should be put out to tender from other UK shipyards.
The industrialist Sir John Parker, chairman of the mining giant Anglo American, was asked by the Ministry of Defence to examine how British naval shipbuilding could be kept sustainable and exports increased.
In his 22-page review (pdf here) published towards the end of last November, Sir John said removing BAE Systems’ monopoly would increase productivity and reduce the time spent on construction. He said other shipyards should build sections of the new ships with them being assembled at a “central hub” in the much same way the two aircraft carriers are being assembled at Rosyth.
Sir John said the Royal Navy is “being depleted by a vicious circle which needs to be broken of old ships sailing beyond their retirement date because of chronic delays in ordering and building replacements”. He pointed out that current Royal Navy warship programmes take far too long. He cited the delays to the building of the eight Type 26 frigates, known as the Global Combat Ship, which are due to replace the 13 Type 23 frigates.
He recommended that the whole series of Type 26 frigates should be built at Govan on the Clyde and the work would see the yard through into the early 2030s. The frigates should be designed specifically in a “modular way” for export. “They are crucial for protecting aircraft carriers from enemy submarines. The 6,900-tonne vessels were first conceived in 1997 yet the first steel was only cut in November. In contrast, it took just five years to build a whole class of mega cruise ships, like the Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, from concept to the last of the four boats setting sail,” said Sir John.
Rather than building 13 Type 26 frigates to replace the 13 in the Type 23 fleet, ministers plan five light frigates called the Type 31. He said: “The deal for the Type 31s could go to a different firm than BAE Systems. There is no precedent for building two ‘first class’ RN frigates in one location, and a separate lead shipyard or alliance could minimise risk.”