Subject to final ministerial approval, the Team Resolute consortium comprising BMT, Harland & Wolff and Navantia UK has been selected ahead of Team UK to build the three Fleet Solid Support Ships. This decision has been announced earlier than expected and will prove to be controversial.
TR says the majority of the blocks and modules for the ships will be constructed at Harland & Wolff’s facilities in Belfast and Appledore, with components to be manufactured in their other delivery centres in Methil and Arnish. Final assembly for all three ships will be completed at Harland & Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast. Build work will also take place at Navantia’s shipyard in Cadiz in Spain, in a collaboration that allows for key skills and technology transfer from a shipbuilder with recent experience in naval auxiliary construction. Precisely how this work share will be split will be the most contentious aspect of this contract award.
Harland and Wolff will have to rely heavily on Navantia – the prime contractor of the consortium, having only a small workforce and no recent track record in naval shipbuilding. It appears TR is now committed to constructing a much larger percentage of each vessel in the UK than had initially been the case.
The manufacturing contract is due to be awarded by DE&S by the first quarter of 2023, subject to the completion of a successful preferred bidder stage and final approvals. Construction will begin in 2025 and all three support ships are expected to be operational by 2032.
The contract is worth £1.6Bn (plus additional funding to cover inflation). TR promises to invest £77 million in shipyard infrastructure at Harland & Wolff in Belfast to create one of the most advanced yards in the UK which will improve its prospects for future export and domestic shipbuilding and offshore opportunities. The programme will create 1,200 UK shipyard jobs, around 800 further jobs across the UK supply chain as well as graduate and apprentice opportunities.
The design was developed by naval architecture house BMT, based in Bath – BMT can point to its recent successful track record working on the QEC aircraft carriers and the Tide-class tanker programmes. They will be responsible for the ship design ahead of manufacture and developing a through-life integrated support package.
The latest iteration of the design shown in the rendering above is of a 216m long vessel with 3 RAS rigs, RASCO sited amidships and container handling capabilities forward. The ships will be capable of 19kts and will have 9,000 sq m of cargo space for stores. The hangars will have the capacity for two Merlin helicopters as well as additional space for UAVs. The design has been developed from the Tide-class tankers and is arguably a better solution than the Team UK offering.