Belfast Telegraph

Harland and Wolff hopeful in new £1bn investment Warship Building plan


The Navy's biggest ever ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was built in blocks in six British cities, before being assembled in Rosyth (Royal Navy/PA)
The Navy's biggest ever ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was built in blocks in six British cities, before being assembled in Rosyth (Royal Navy/PA)

A new fleet of multimillion-pound warships could be built in blocks across several shipyards in Britain, including Belfast, the Defence Secretary has announced.

While tender is open for selection for the build, Harland and Wolff are hoping to be involved.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the first batch of new Type 31e frigates would be built with the export market in mind, with the UK shipbuilding industry potentially serving both the Royal Navy and navies of allies and partners.

As part of this approach, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the first batch of five Type 31e frigates could be built across different shipyards, before being assembled at a central site.

Cost would be capped at no more than £250 million each.

A spokesperson from Harland and Wolff said: "Commercially it would be a great success for us.

"All the work we do, the benefit has not been seen by they Royal Navy."

They added: "It would also mean our commercial fabricators would have the opportunity to work with international partners." 

PANews BT_P-2f724ef2-4d02-4b91-8de3-4529da3bee75_I1.jpg
The entrance to Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

The frigates would be constructed at various shipyards and later assembled at a central site - ready in time for 2023.

Sir John Parker, the chairman of mining giant Anglo American said the Navy fleet was being depleted by a "vicious cycle" of old ships retained beyond their sell-by date.

Sir John said: "I am very impressed by the courage that the Secretary of State has shown - and the Government - in adopting my recommendations, which were very extensive, and will change the shape of naval shipbuilding over the country in the future.

"The next challenge is to come up with a world-leading design; one that can satisfy the needs of the Royal Navy and the export market.

"We have the capability to do that, the will is there and it is a tremendous opportunity for UK shipbuilding.

"I see no reason why industry will not rise to that challenge.

"There is an incredible keenness from around the country, from Scotland to Merseyside, to the South West and over to Belfast."

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey has criticised the British Government's plan to intensify warship building. Following the announcement at Westminster that over £1billion of taxpayer money would be spent on at least five new British war ships, the MP said:

"Yesterday I spoke Harriet Baldwin, British under-secretary of defence procurement and made clear Sinn Fein's total opposition to this militarist programme.

"In the Tory end of food banks, zero-hour contract and brutal cuts to vital public services, the British Government has decided that building warships is their economic priority."

Mr Maskey added: "£1billion of investment would be better directed towards schools and a health service crumbling under Tory austerity, not on inflating British military ego."

However, East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson has welcomed the new Shipbuilding Strategy.

The DUP MP stated: "This strategy is a significant announcement and is good news for the maritime industry across the UK, including Belfast.

"Firms such as Harland and Wolff undoubtedly have the skills and capacity to undertake work required by the Royal Navy, but testified to the fact they found the current approach to be something of a ‘closed shop’. Competitiveness is vital and I agree that for too long the work has rested with one or two companies.

"Sharing the construction of vessels across multiple partners means Belfast can demonstrate the capacity that exists within Harland and Wolff and take advantage of our unique shipyard, including the two largest dry docks in the United Kingdom."