Defence Secretary drops heavy hint on Royal Navy warship contracts during visit to South Tyneside shipyard
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon visited South Tyneside today to witness what he described as a 'renaissance' in UK shipbuilding '“ a left a heavy hint that significant new contracts could be on their way.
He toured A&P Tyne’s Hebburn yard, which is expected to be at the forefront of consortium bids to build the Royal Navy’s next generation of Type 31e frigates and Type 45 destroyers.
While offering no guarantee that work around the multi-billion-pound projects would follow, his visit follows the unveiling of the the government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy last month.
The strategy is a blueprint for the transformation of the procurement of naval ships and is designed to make the UK’s maritime industry more competitive.
It will also grow the Royal Navy fleet by the 2030s, export British ships overseas, and boost innovation, skills, jobs, and productivity.
In a hugely positive note, Sir Michael stressed A&P’s facility possessed the necessary skills to play a significant role in future naval build schemes.
Sir Michael said: “It is very encouraging to witness the renaissance of shipbuilding around the UK at first hand.
“Having helped build our new aircraft carriers and the Astute Class submarines, A&P Tyne have the skills and expertise to bid for our brand-new class of frigates.
“The whole industry is clearly excited about the opportunity to build cutting-edge ships for our growing Royal Navy, which will protect our nation and interests across the world.”
A&P Tyne, which employs 300 people, vowed to fully engage with the National Shipbuilding Strategy and capitalise on all additional work opportunities.
David McGinley, Group Managing Director, said: “Sir Michael’s visit, much like the National Shipbuilding Strategy, is about recognising the capability, scale and engineering strength of UK commercial shipyards and the value we can deliver to the Ministry of Defence both in Hebburn and across the country.
“Our experience of sharing large scale defence sector work with other UK yards includes the Astute Submarine Class and the prestigious HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier projects.
“We fully support the government’s commitment to boost UK ship building and importantly, allow innovation, skills and training to flourish and we are keen to capitalise on all available opportunities for additional work in the future.
“This of course mean we will engage and collaborate with other sector players in support of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.”
Last month A&P Group, which is the UK’s largest provider of ship repair, conversion and marine services, established a new defence division to strengthen its links to the Ministry of Defence.
It said this would help pursue contracts for the Type 31e and Type 45 vessels.
Hebburn MP Stephen Hepburn, who joined Sir Michael at the A&P yard, said: “’I’m delighted that he came here on my invitation to see for himself the skills we have.
“It’s fantastic that he has chosen Hebburn as the first place to visit since announcing the government’s new shipbuilding strategy.
“The strategy will bring a lot of opportunities to this area through better skills, including apprenticeships.
“It was the last Labour government that laid the foundations for this because we brought work on the aircraft carriers here.”
A&P Tyne is currently working on the build of the seventh Astute submarine and the first of ten units for the Future Submarine programme, as well as commercial ship projects.