For­eign firms asked to play part in build­ing new Navy ships

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Alan Tovey

FOR­EIGN com­pa­nies are be­ing in­vited to take part in early plans to build new ships to sup­port the Royal Navy, go­ing against rec­om­men­da­tions of the Na­tional Ship­build­ing Strat­egy and an­ger­ing mar­itime unions.

The Min­istry of De­fence has asked po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers to take part in “mar­ket en­gage­ment” about the es­ti­mated £1bn con­tract to build three Fleet Solid Sup­port (FSS) ships that will help keep the Navy’s new air­craft car­ri­ers at sea, pro­vid­ing them with stores such as am­mu­ni­tion and food.

The “prior in­for­ma­tion no­tice” on the MoD con­tracts web­site adds that it is open to “UK and in­ter­na­tional sup­pli­ers or con­sor­tiums of­fer­ing a UK or in­ter­na­tional ship de­sign, who are ca­pa­ble of either prim­ing, pro­vid­ing a de­sign and/or in­te­grat­ing or build­ing FSS ships”. The process is in­tended to help work out the con­tract be­fore en­ter­ing into ne­go­ti­a­tions with in­dus­try about de­tails for con­struc­tion of the 40,000ton ves­sels.

Three years ago a gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port by in­dus­try vet­eran Sir John Parker into ship­build­ing called for an end to “boom and bust” cy­cles for UK ship­build­ing.

One of Sir John’s rec­om­men­da­tions was a steady stream of work to end ex­pen­sive scal­ing up and down of yards as naval pro­grammes ended with no more work in sight. Build­ing the FSS ships in the UK was seen as one way of do­ing this.

How­ever, the Gov­ern­ment has ar­gued be­cause the FSS are part of the Royal Fleet Aux­il­iary, they are not war­ships – which have to be UK-built.

Min­is­ters have also said that EU pro­cure­ment rules mean the con­tract has to be of­fered in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Ian Wad­dell, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Ship­build­ing and En­gi­neer­ing Unions (CSEU), said: “We were told re­peat­edly by gov­ern­ment that there had to be an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion to build th­ese ships be­cause of EU state aid rules. Well, we’ve left the EU so why are in­ter­na­tional sup­pli­ers be­ing in­vited to ten­der for this pro­ject?”

FSS could also be used to help stim­u­late the UK econ­omy, with state-funded projects be­ing di­rected to Bri­tish in­dus­try, the CSEU said.

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