Harland & Wolff has now formally signed the manufacturing subcontract with Navantia UK for the £1.6 billion Fleet Solid Support ship project.
Under the terms of the subcontract, Harland & Wolff will be responsible for delivering works worth around £700 million – £800 million through the life of the programme. Bath-based BMT will receive fees for their design work but it can be assumed that the remainder of the contract value will go to Navantia. The Spanish company will construct the complex propulsion blocks of the first ship at least, as well as provide the majority of the expertise and technology transfers that will underpin the project.
The works will last seven years and will commence in 2023 and continue until 2031. H&W will be responsible for the fabrication of various blocks including some of the ‘mega blocks’ (blocks incorporating several standard-sized blocks) as well as the procurement of a number of items of equipment to be installed on each vessel in Belfast.
Given Appledore’s experience in the fabrication of the bow sections for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, all three bow sections for this Programme will be fabricated in Appledore prior to being transported to Belfast. All three vessels will have all the blocks assembled, consolidated, fully integrated and commissioned before proceeding to sea trials from the Belfast facility, the first ships to be built in Belfast after over twenty years.
The Belfast and Appledore facilities will undergo a £77 million capital investment programme over the next 2 years. In Belfast, an extension to the fabrication halls will be undertaken to facilitate a material and sub-structure production flow along with efficient manufacturing and production process. Investments will be made in technologically advanced robotic and autonomous equipment that includes material movement, marking, plate cutting, panel lines and robotic welding. In addition, new larger paint buildings will be constructed to facilitate larger and more efficient block painting. Appledore will benefit from upgrades to the shipyard roof along with investments in additional automated machinery that includes the relocation of the existing micro panel line from Belfast.
The partnership with Navantia will further lead to a transfer of technology over the next seven years. Pre-planning applications have already been submitted and demolition works are expected to start shortly in Belfast, with the new facility coming to life over the next two years.
The company will be receiving a significant proportion of the investment required for the recapitalisation plan from the project directly. It will also look to capitalise on production savings with new plant and equipment. It is envisaged that £32m will be financed through additional long-term leasehold improvements, medium-term asset finance and H&W’s proposed new enlarged debt facility with Astra, which is expected to be completed by the end of Q1 2023. There may also be opportunities to access other external funding such as new technology grants and carbon reduction grants that the Company will work through over the next twelve months to maximise funding and optimise the Group’s capital.
In collaboration with its partners in Team Resolute, Navantia and BMT, H&W will continue to engage as a team in future phases of this programme as well as on other opportunities in the UK and globally.
The social value contribution through the life of the programme will include deepening and strengthening the UK supply chain, taking on graduates and apprentices together with technology transfer from Spain to the UK. At the peak of the programme, H&W will be providing employment to over 1,200 personnel (900 in Belfast and 300 in Appledore) and over 100 graduates and apprentices in Belfast and Appledore.