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As is usual, another intelligent, thought provoking editorial. I appreciate that the forum is dedicated to the trials and tribulations of our Royal Navy, but for British shipbuilding to truly revive, the merchant marine must surely also be considered.
It’s galling that France, Italy and Germany all have successful yards completing ships for the cruise sector. The UK would have light years to “catch up”; but is there any appetite for this type of investment in any quarter, public or private?

Anthony Gilroy

Indeed, more so if other engineering companies can be engaged besides BAE. Let’s face it, whatever the article says at the end they are NOT a “capable supplier”. I think the public would be shocked at the result if BAE was forced to compete against real engineering talent and suppliers without Government protection.

It would be interesting to see what happened if the few remaining small firms/shipyards were engaged to build and provide ships, including those that are not military.

Afterall, an RFA build foreign might be “cheap” but none of that money returns to the economy or builds British skills. I think the Government is missing in a trick in understanding how important manufacturing and core industry is.


Those RFA builds abroad were not cheap.


Specifying that all warships will be built in the UK and then allowing one privately owned company to own effectively all of the facilities where they can be built is a recipe for complete disaster. This situation never should have been allowed to occur. Nationalising the company would be far better than the current situation. A large number of different private operators that are forced to compete with one another could also work better in theory, although the number of ships being built is probably too small to support that model.

Good article to point out many of the overpriced, defective products that BAE Systems are currently delivering. Other examples include:

– Type 45 Destroyer (more than one billion pound over-engineered ships. Cost overruns led to 12 ships becoming 6. Taxpayers rather than BAE systems are now paying to fix the engines on these defective ships).
– Eurofighter Typhoon (expensive high-tech, unreliable aircraft – only something like a quarter of the RAFs are actually flyable – Austria is ditching their entire fleet because they find them useless – F35 will repeat and in many cases amplify problems with the Typhoon (also built partly by BAE Systems)).


-The Type 45 issues mostly lie with the MoD. They failed to efficiently manage the project, went for the riskiest and least proven design (against BAE’s advice), and signed a contract that left them liable for all the issues. You can’t blame a private company for avoiding hundreds of millions worth of additional costs when they’re not legally obligated to cover them.

-The Typhoon has no record of being unreliable. Issues have been had due to lack of spares, but that isn’t a type-specific issue, that’s due to a lack of defence funding. Austria are ditching them because they’re still only operating the old single role Tranche 1 in very small numbers and further development has occured at a national level instead of a single homogeneous upgrade across the entire fleet. It’s not that they find them useless, it’s that the cost of ownership is too high, there isn’t an “official” upgrade for them, and the other half of their fleet needs replacing anyway, so they want to standardise.

Anthony Gilroy

“went for the riskiest and least proven design (against BAE’s advice), and signed a contract that left them liable for all the issues. You can’t blame a private company for avoiding hundreds of millions worth of additional costs when they’re not legally obligated to cover them.”

Callum, there is usually 2 sides to every coin and in a properly open market the MOD may well have not chosen BAE for production of the Type 45… national imperitives stipulated by the government on our behalf as the democratic majority force that issue. Or in short. “Jobs for industry have put our boys and girls at risk”.

As for the contract, that same private company has proven (with the Batch 2 River OPVs) that they have poor QA process and engineering standards but even worse they will try and get away with what they can. Sadly, owing to “Jobs for industry”, that usually means the MOD is forced into a contract they wouldn’t otherwise take. Ultimately making MOD responsible on the face of what is a MUCH DEEPER issue.

NSBS highlighted some of these issues, if you read Haddonn Cave’s Nimrod report some of the issues are even visible at that level.

In short, BAE are not the innocent part you make them out to be. As for Type 45 destroy, the Ministry of Defence wanted 12. Then 8 if it could get them. Treasury decisions to achieve “short term savings without risking jobs” lead to the mess that was that decision. Again, the egg on the face to clean up for left with MOD but the ultimate issue lay much higher in the government.


You are right. Even though they have a history for at least the last 10-15 years of milking taxpayers in return for very little, really a rational person cannot completely blame BAE Systems. As a private company, they are merely taking advantage of government policy that basically guarantees them winning multi billion pound contracts with little or no competition. Any private company is likely to take advantage of this situation to reward shareholders and executives rather than focussing on being cost/time-efficient or delivering quality products. If you were trying to design a procurement process as inefficient as possible, it is likely that you would come up with something like how the Ministry of Defence currently purchases new weapons.


The ships or the systems? The ships cost around 600 million pounds (without the weapons) in the day, with weapons added brought them up to 1 billion pounds. The hull build is a far smaller part of the total. These are not steel intensive ships, but systems intensive ships. One issue with Hull design was said to be quietness in which we seemed to have forgotten all our design past in creating quiet ships. Due too…


If the te ship design itself was at fault, surely this is not the fault of the actual shipbuilders/production side of things.


Yes – supposedly part of the justification for massive the price of the Type 45 was “stealth”, yet they give off more noise than probably anything built in the history of the Royal Navy. A bit like the F35 – it is also “stealth” yet has a huge engine that would act like a magnet to heat-seeking missiles probably more than any other combat aircraft ever built.


It’s been years since IR AAM’s looked for a single hot heat source like an engine.

Danny Stewart

Who’s husband sits on the board of Bae systems I guess that will be our Primeminsters then Bae have had it to good for to long it is about time our government stept in re nationalise British shipyards and kept Appledore a alive & open and built all our own War and Support Ships .

Iqbal Ahmed

The problem with this article is it’s military shipbuilding focus. Commercial shipbuilding should be the largest part of a wider post-Brexit industrial strategy. Military shipbuilding should be a by-product of a successful commercial shipbuilding industry. Government shouldn’t be expected to keep the industry barely alive through taxpayers money and artificial domination of just one defence company, BAES. This is done only to maintain a perception that Britain remains a player in a strategic industry in which we once lead the world but makes no commercial sense nor engenders long term sustainability.

The Conservative Government reluctance to support commercial shipbuilding puts the UK at a disadvantage to our competitors. Our European and Far Eastern competitors receive state aid from their governments in the form of R&D support in EU countries like Italy and protectionist measures such as direct subsidies in South Korea. Britain has to be equally clever in supporting our shipbuilders, for example through use of innovative new technology and agreements for local content requirements and concentrating on the value of supply chain work as much as actual construction work at shipyards.

Anthony Gilroy

“Britain has to be equally clever in supporting our shipbuilders, for example through use of innovative new technology and agreements for local content requirements and concentrating on the value of supply chain work as much as actual construction work at shipyards.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this and the recently developed “quantum accelerometer” is an example of where such a unnion could work so effectively. UK tech that could have been put, safely, on UK ships and provided a REAL benefit (no requirement to rely on GPS systems that can be hacked, shut down, shot down etcetc).

What is so vexxing is, all the pieces of the puzzle are still present in the UK (some parts are now dangerously close to dissapearing for ever sadly). Yet we refuse top stop monpoloy situations happening… to our own detriment.


Yes. Dr. Paul Stott if Newcastle University is worried that the government has a long memory about the past in UK shipbuilding and is prepared to throw out even more babies with the bathwater.


Er, that’s because the name of the website is “Save the Royal Navy”?!


Even a modest revival in commercial shipbuilding has to be proceeded by real government support and long-term planning which has been entirely lacking to date.

It first requires a steady drumbeat of RN/RFA contracts to bring a degree of certainty to the industry and allow for a baseline on which skills, experience, innovation and reputation can be built.

It also requires a government which actively wants to nurture industry and manufacturing in this country, not by pouring vast sums of public cash into propping up failing businesses as many feel was the mistake of the 1970’s (and which has tarnished government involvement in the free market ever since), but by providing backing through subsidies and tax breaks that allows UK shipbuilding to be competitive and takes the long view that more jobs, less benefits and public money staying here to go back into the economy via tax and consumer spending is actually a far better approach.

This is how most of the surviving European companies have managed to keep going and in some cases thrive. Unfortunately despite the rhetoric the Conservative Party in it’s current form doesn’t seem to give a dam about UK business and seems hell-bent on turning us into a low tax, low wage economy that primarily benefits foreign companies and investors.

Turning things around isn’t going to happen overnight, and perhaps this is also part of the problem when the usual Westminster attitude is to only think 5 years ahead and to not want to put money into anything that doesn’t show an immediate return. However there is potentially enough RN/RFA work to sustain 2 or more shipbuilding companies/consortium’s, plus Rosyth remaining as an assembly yard as well as refitting QE & PoW when the time comes.

Personally i’d pick the Arrowhead design and buy 8-10 of them as well as working with Babcock to look at potential designs for the mine-hunter replacement which will be needed from 2028 on wards. I’d then commit to 3 Future Solid Stores vessels and award the contract to Cammell Laird given that they wouldn’t be getting Type 31 and are also the best placed yard to do so. I’d also look to order 2 more Type 26 given that extra Type 2087 sonars and Artisan radars have already been procured.

Long-term we could end up with the following….

Ferguson’s, Harland & Wolf and A&P specializing in small-medium surface ships as well as keeping and trying to build up their preexisting commercial work (ferry’s, off-shore energy construction, ship repair).

Cammell Laird specializing in large RFA’s as well as replacements for Albion/Bulwark, again keeping their ship repair work going alongside.

The Clyde specializing in high-end surface ships with the replacement for Type 45 following on from Type 26 to keep a continuous drumbeat of 16 frigates/destroyers with 1 launched every 18 months going.

Barrow doing likewise with a continuous flow of submarines (ideally 12 with 1 finished every 2 years).

Rosyth assembling the blocks of the larger ships and providing refit facilities.

The demand is there and upon this template great shipyards like CL and H&W could have a shot at growing and competing in the commercial market, but it requires government support through clarity and money to get things started.


Let’s not forget appledore the only English yard to recently build a ship with a gun attached and the original project lead to type 31 Babcock bid


I’m sorry I could only press your “+” once, because I like the sound of that, save for launching one RN ship every 18 months. I would make it every 12 months and concentrate on getting the Commonwealth nations into buying the same “Type’s” to bring the cost price per unit down.


Back in 2015/16, I was involved in a modular build programme in the offshore industry across 6 yards across Europe, the Far East and the UK. The efficiency, behaviour and quality of the UK yards were the worst of the lot by a considerable margin, in fact appalling. While it’s not fair to tar all companies with the same brush, as a Brit on the international project management team, I was deeply embarrassed and the experience left me concerned for the status of our shipbuilding industry as a whole. The underlying reasons were complex but much had to do with poor yard management, poor productivity (downright laziness) and sloppy workmanship. If as I suspect, this is in part symptomatic of our shipbuilding industry, it is no wonder it has done poorly. Until we demonstrate that we are good enough to compete for commercial business, why should we expect to get military contracts where the onus on getting it right has the highest possible implications in terms of lives and national security? It seems to be different in design where we have some real winners on our hands (Type 26 export orders) but when it comes to building, and with some exceptions like QEC which seems OK, I’m sorry but am not convinced.

As mentioned, my observations are limited in scope to a sub-set of UK yards and perhaps things have changed since then – indeed I very much hope so. But if it’s still not in good shape and we don’t think w’ll get value for money, why bother? I understand commitments have been made to workers on the Clyde for T26 and would suggest they be honoured but longer-term? Why not just have companies domestically like CL / A&P who are successful in fit-out / repair and tender the rest internationally to get cheapest, high quality hulls and marine systems? I note that this blog is called, ‘Save the Royal Navy’ not, ‘Save the UK shipbuilding industry’. The two are different in important ways.

Note that above comments relate to surface ships – nuke subs are clearly different and a sovereign build capability can’t be linked to commercial success.


Yes OAA, you have cut to the quick and the crux of the problem. Union low productivity, laziness and lack of work ethic still pervade British shipbuilding. Knowing all this, the government is unwilling to re-visit large subsidies for a domestic shipbuilding industry they know will never be competitive. People have grand ideas but it’s always with someone else’s money. My friends we’re barking up a dead cow’s ass lf we think British shipbuilding can be a competitive player on the world stage.


Of course we can, if France, Germany and Italy can do it, so can we, we just need investment and support like what they do.


Stephen, imagine it’s you’re money you’re investing, would you really put it into attempting to grow UK shipbuilding in the face of an existing global oversupply in capacity? What would be the rationale? I cant remember who said it but I recently read a quote which said that these days you fight with what you have at sea because it takes so long to build new ones. That seems to make sense to me so why have your own shipbuilders? Fit-out of sovereign systems – yes, repair – ditto. But lots of yards? Waste of money isn’t it? If it were your money wouldn’t you put it into eg. Infrastructure? Or forces housing? Or increased warstocks? Or more warships? Or better weapons? Or higher wages?

Point is there are lots of things that would give you a better return in terms of ‘saving the Royal Navy’ that pouring money into crap yards.

As mentioned, the exception is for our nuke boats where it’s worth paying for autonomy so we keep control.


Oh wait, it IS your money..


The navy has 3 frigates on order in Scotland. Where is the work going to come from to keep all these proposed yards busy and profitable? The Navy is too small to support it. I’m with you OOA.


The Royal Navy and R.F.A. has more than enough ships to keep at least 3 shipyards going (submarines in Barrow, small and medium ships on the Clyde and large ships at another shipyard).


No. It’s our taxes in which the paymaster general, the government get the tax back. 6 tankers reduced to 4 despite being built in South Korea, over a year late through wiring etc. 550 million pounds in the end just for the hull builds, not including the UK (I assume sovereign) content of 160 million pounds gross. 550 million quid with no tax back which some say is a very large percentage, 20, 30, 40, 50%? You divide that 550 by whatever percentage then multiply by 100 and see how much those ships actually cost the UK and they were expensive, in fact, we subsidized that South Korean yard. You don’t fit out ships after the build. Most is done, or as much as possible while in build.


We will always have a Royal Navy, therefore we will always need shipbuilding, therefore it is very much in our interests that British shipyards have modern facilities and equipment so we are as efficient and competitive as possible.

Julian Edmonds

And workers with a proper work ethic, like we could get any day if we remoan in the EU. Like France, Germany and even Populist Italy.


The Ship building industry needs to go through the same thought process change that the car industry did. In 2015 the U.K. produced 1m cars with 64% few people than in 1982 and the quality is supposed to be the best in the world. Nissain in Sunderland holds the record for being the most productive and achieving the highest quality standards in the entire company. If you had told me in 1992 as I was climbing behind the wheel of my old Austin Montego that in less than 30 years the British car industry would change that much, I would have laughed at you.

Ship building in the U.K. has major issues. Is it the unionised workforce? Is it the management, who knows? One things for certain, unless someone is prepared to write a decent cheque to construction managers of the quality who oversea shipbuilding for companies like Maersk and provides the same oversight as I saw on a series on TV that covered the building of their Maersk Triple E Class, which I will admit are not Warships, but giant container ships. We will never lead the world in this sector. From the depth of the screw heads to on-site destruction testing of any part or component, plus the intensity of oversight they had over the ship builders. They had the quality down to a “T”, and several members of their team were British! So, why will these people work for firms around the world and not those in the U.K.? Any thoughts from people in the know would be gratefully received. Personally, I think it’s because they are the one in the team of 20 when they are in their carriers, who feel they are banging their heads on a bulkhead. So they leave for somewhere that believes in “Right first time” and quality no matter what mantra.

If anyone knows different, please let me know.


Im not british im american but all my life i have study ships from the titanic to queen mary 2 and i agree with you british ship concepts are my favorite and my dream is to rebuild the white star line and keep the history of british ship building alive and a saying from lord piery from white star line said you can turn the vision into a reality and one thing i though would honor the old royal navy is the ship that was the pride of the royal navy hms hood and her sister ships names hms repulse and hms renown to show the public the royal navy is not giving up.


Which Modular build programme was this that you were on? Poor workmanship? Yet we are told most of them are from abroad, like Poland etc…


I’ve kept the names of projects and yards deliberately out of my comments as it’s still commercially sensitive and wouldn’t contribute to the principles in the debate.

The management and trades were piss poor if you’ll excuse the phrase. The management were playing commercial games with the client and at the same time had the shop stewards imposing overtime bans and threats of stoppages. Trades: At one point we had to insist (and pay for) that they mobilise pipe fitters, welders and laggers from another yard in Europe. When they did, the quality and productivity increased significantly. Very sad.

The Korean yards are also not what they used to be – quite a spate of fatalities and quality issues recently – but if you know to manage then and you never ever allow change to the design after the build has started, you’re usually ok.

Ref your comment of fit-out, agree for marine systems and stuff deep in the hull or topsides but for weapons, sensors etc, they’re done after the float-out.


Time is fast running out on this ,The fact is that we are losing the skills that we once had because skilled tradesmen in the shipbuilding industry are fast disappearing due to lack of work in the yard’s and an aging workforce retiring in droves. the fact that large projects like HMS Queen Elizabeth could not have been built without importing skilled labour from abroad I.E. Polish welders and Rumanian pipefitters to name but a few means that we are losing these skill’s forever once they are gone they will never come back. we must support our shipbuilding industry and create more apprenticeships to take on these skill’s before it is too late , It would be a national disgrace if the S.F.S. ships or the type 31 were to be awarded to a foreign country. The clock is ticking


DD, would it be a national disgrace if we could afford eg. 7 T31 instead of 5 because they were build more efficiently abroad? Sorry, but your argument has too much nostalgia for my taste. I don’t want to see my countrymen out of work but I don’t think propping up a few yards that live from hand to mouth is a long-term solution that anyway.

For the younger ones, why not join the RN instead?


It is better that we keep our own people in well paid, highly skilled jobs, keep our own industries going and keep the money in our own country.


I fully agree. I’m just not sure shipbuilding is an effective way of doing that.


What is the effective way then?


It’s a valid question and I think we should probably look to places like Norway or NL for solutions – they figured out a long time ago that they can’t usually compete in low margin manufacturing with big commercial mills, yards, factories with low wage-bases so they specialised in niches. Kongsberg and Thales Nederland (formerly Signaal) spring to mind. The Netherlands has a a similar history to ours in many ways but has a GDP per capita way above ours. If they can diversify the economy of former shipbuilding : heavy industrial areas, surely so can we.


OOA You should be flogged or Keelhauled or something. To say that our ships should be built in this country is not nostalgic ,It is patriotic. Why should our taxpayers help fund the economy’s of other countries, it does not make sense. Ships need everything from main engine’s to light switches Millions of separate parts the most of which should be sourced from this country ,Sadly this is no longer the case ,We therefore need to re -build our supply industry back up to what it used to be by building British and fitting out with British equipment where possible.
Finally the R.N. do not build ships ,The young ones need proper trades to learn that will last a lifetime


Why can’t people disagree without getting nasty? I made my point as best I can, you clearly disagree. Fair enough.


Yes you did OOA, social media is brutal


In the UK we have one state of the art shipyard where the owner has invested in it’s facilities and it’s staff. That is the BAE submarine yard at Barrow in Furness. One of the largest covered assembly halls in Europe, ship lifts etc. and recent investment in fabrication facilities. The rest of the UK yards are effectively cottage industries, relying on refit work for regular income with the occasional build job every few years. They have not invested in production facilities seemingly since the 1970s. They are simply too small.

The crazy thing is that there is more than enough work for at least one surface ship yard for the foreseeable future. However, the UK Government insists on competitive tenders which means you have one cottage industry facing off against another with the loser going out of business. The MoD and the Scottish Government meanwhile appear to have scared off BAE investing in Scotstoun or Govan, and why should they? They have a contract for three ships and that’s it. Simply not worth their risk building the type of yard they have in Barrow in Glasgow. We need one sizable, modern, integrated shipyard with at least two lines capable of delivering long term, drum beat contracts, don’t care where it is.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised, after the T26 global success, that BAE becomes a prime contractor and subcontracts the future buildings to say Cammell Laird. Interestingly BAE doesn’t own Govan, it leases it off Port Glasgow which is owned by Peel Holdngs who also owns a chunk of Cammell Laird.


Hmm… as mentioned above, am not convinced but if we are to keep some complex warship capacity, I’m inclined to agree that one yard is the least-worst option. I can’t however Square that with having a company running it in a monopoly position. Either nationalise it or be bloody rigorous on how you benchmark their costs when you agree pricing formulas – or both (prob depends on how you choose to vote)


One yard can’t build all our destroyers, frigates, O.P.V.s, submarines, carriers, solid support ships, etc., etc., etc. We definitely need more than 1 shipyard (with modern facilities and equipment so we are as efficient and cost effective as possible).


We have to build all Navy and R.F.A. ships in British shipyards in the future, doing this alone will give us a decent sized shipbuilding industry, it will also give us the steady stream of work necessary needed for British shipbuilding to invest in new equipment and facilities which will in turn increase our efficiency and competitiveness on the World market, and we will always have a Royal Navy, so it is very much in our interests that British shipbuilding is efficient and cost effective as possible. No longer can we give taxpayer funded ships to foreign companies.

Decades without investment (in stark contrast to our European competitors) mean that other than Barrow British shipyards are anything but modern and efficient. The frigates, destroyers, etc. will be built on the Clyde so with that certainty B.A.E.S. should be strongly encouraged and supported to build the frigate factory at Scotstoun, the large enclosed dock hall, to give the Clyde modern, World class facilities with which to build the Royal Navy’s ships, it will also increase our efficiency, productivity and competitiveness.

We will also need a shipyard to build our large ships for the Royal Navy and R.F.A. (solid support ships, amphibious, tankers, aircraft carriers, etc.). Since Scotland would get the large enclosed dock hall on the Clyde I would build this in England, with Cammell Laird on the Mersey being the obvious choice, they have had recent success winning the bid to build R.R.S. David Attenborough against foreign competition. They should be strongly encouraged and supported to build a large enclosed dock hall with modern, state of the art equipment so we have World class facilities with which to build our large Royal Navy and R.F.A. ships in the future.

France, Germany and Italy all have large successful industries building cruise ships, yet we are an island and we don’t? This is one area of shipbuilding where European shipyards still dominate, with modern facilities and equipment there is no reason why we can’t bid for and build cruise ships.

We must do everything humanly possible to make British shipbuilding efficient and competitive, e.g. modern, state of the art facilities and equipment, building ships all on one site as it is inherently inefficient to build blocks hundreds of miles apart with the associated transport costs, etc., etc.

Andy Tiller

British shipbuilding can be revived if there was Government commitment to building ships in the UK. I have raised a petition that the R F A solid support ships are built in the UK.

This is supported by my local MP.
It would be good if Appledore could be saved and focus on building smaller ships such as minesweepers and patrol vessels. They built patrol vessels for the Irish Navy that seemed to give better value for money than BAe have given for the river class patrol vessels


May not fully agree with the point but want to take my hat off to you for getting a petition going. Screaming in the wind on blogs like this is cathartic (I love it) but not as impactful as what you’re doing.


Appledore is on facebook too. Check them out. They want to build ships.


Just read on Twitter that the Australian Hunter class (Type 26 design) will use Australian steel and I assume, not need this very special flat thin steel provided by Sweden for the British ships. This is one of the problems we face.


Flag me down, but this total BS excuse was given and Briitish people are being owned by these piss poor decisions to play for vested interests and played just like the remainers saying eu is actually good for Britain… God give me strength! Join it all up and see this all for what it is!


Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland and possible France (depending on how it’s measured) are all in the supposedly stifling EU and all have a higher GDP per capita that the UK. Look it up for yourself. How do you explain that?


The best way to revive the UK’s shipbuilding is to ensure that all new RN vessels are built in the United Kingdom. This would serve to maintain warship manufacture, and encourage none military yards. New civilian shipyards should be located in the vicinity of exsisting warship yards, to establish centres of excellence as seen on the Clyde, at the height of the trade.
The daft directive issued by the MOD about what vessel constitutes a ‘warship,’ should be torn up. The new solid supply ships must be built in the UK and no excuses, not to do so, will have only one outcome?


Great discussion, with valuable insight from OOA.

I have heard many a complaint about the quality of work and laziness on the QEC carriers by one of the guys who worked on them. (From either this site or UKDJ or TD), so it would seem that BAES does have an issue with quality and working practices in its Scottish yards at least (further backed up by the River glue debacle).

The RN has a fleet of circa 80 vessels and spread ove 25 years it can support 3 yards, if planned and executed properly and rigorously (better 2 yards – but that wont happen).

I would like to see the fleet and drumbeat be something like this.

2 carriers – 50 year lifespan (no replacement)
13 – Subs at a beat of 1 every 2 years
25 – T31 (Global mission ships) – 1 annually. (Replacing 6T23, 6 Rivers, 15 MCM).
13 – T26 (Global Comabt Ship) -1 every 2 years (replacing both T45 and T23)
10 – Aeigir based Joint Logistic and amphibious support ships (UK version of Karel Doorman)
7 – Aegir Based – Fast Fleet Tankers
4 – Aegir based – Float on Float off vessels
4 – Large (60m+) Specialist platforms (icebreaker, survey etc).

The above will be supported by a fleet of 800 smaller vessels such as:

S2S connectors
Safeboat Mk6
Atlas MCM
Atlas Workboats
Landing craft
Other small Work boats

Many of the above are already in service – others are not, but it is the combination of a new more flexibile large ship and the smaller (less expensive) smaller enabling fleet that means we have a requirement for 4 types of building.

1. Complex Warships
2. Large Surface ships
3. Submarines
4. Small enabling fleet

Where these are built I am agnostic to in reality, but I do want to see us make T31 our new Frigate and T26 our version of the Arleigh Burke.

From this base we need to then expand outwards into the fishing and oil industries, which some yards already have.

The above is not fantasy – it is more or less the same volume of vessels we have now, just a different structure and mix.

For me the drumbeat is critical, 1.5 Complex warships every year, 1 Large vessel every 12-18 months and 1 submarine every 2 years. Each vessel has 1 maintenance period at year 13 and we look to sell off as soon as possible thereafter (year 20 latest). This then means money is spent on new kit and not on expensive refits.


Inherently, I prefer the multiple independent company approach but see that nationalising it could work as well. The government needs to break up BAE shipbuilding one way or another. It is a monopoly and should be broken up or nationalised. If nationalised it needs strong management. My limited experience of BAE Shipbuilding is that Barrow is okay, Portsmouth an absolute mess of inefficiency where no one will take responsibility and everyone is lost in a mire of bureaucracy.

The government has to then commit to steady purchasing of both military and support vessels. It should lay out what it is going to buy for ten years at least, quantities, types, delivery schedules etc. Then it should insist on the best price possible. I know from shipbuilding that regular purchases of ships can keep the price right down. I don’t doubt, for instance, that the Type 45 destroyers could have been reduced from 1billion each to around 600 million if the government had committed to one a year for twelve years.

A national strategy should then be developed covering productivity, exports, training and skill retention, innovation and gaining commercial work. Innovation should be high on the agenda as this is a way into a revived shipbuilding industry in this country.

Some things are certain:

1. Yards will continue to close without steady, regular and long tern commitment from the government for navy ships.
2. The current monopoly does not work and has to be changed.
3. Technology and innovation is key – no place for nostalgic longing for days of glory past.
4. This is perfectly do-able but needs concerted leadership from the government over the long term.

Glenn Aylett

Don’t forget BAE Systems( Vickers) at Barrow, which employs 6000 people bulding submarines, and has the contract to build 2 nuclear submarines that will keep the shipyard busy until 2025. Also the yard can build surface vessels and has another 1000 workers involved in producing missiles for the Royal Navy. It’s not all doom and gloom and for all most shipbuilding in Britain is warships and submarines, at least this has saved the industry on the Clyde, in Barrow and in Birkenhead.