Navy ship hulls could be built in eastern Europe
IAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent February 23 2006
Copyright © 2006 Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited. All Rights Reserved
Hulls for the Royal Navy's planned £2bn fleet of new supply and long-range refuelling ships could be built in Poland or East Germany instead of the Clyde or in England, industry sources claimed yesterday.
Outsourcing the initial fabrication work could save the taxpayer up to 30% of the basic construction bill and ease the burden on the hard-pressed defence budget.
The plan is to build eight logistics support ships, including double-hulled tankers capable of keeping carrier strike groups or amphibious task forces supplied with fuel, food ammunition and water anywhere round the globe.
The Mars (Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability) project is being handled by the Defence Procurement Agency with the aim of having the first ships in service "by early in the next decade", according to the Ministry of Defence.
Although both the government and the MoD insist that all warships are built in UK yards, the same rule does not apply to supply vessels.
Duncan McPhee, Amicus union convener at BAe's Govan and Scotstoun shipbuilding sites, said yesterday that he and his colleagues were aware of the threat of transferring work to foreign yards and were prepared to fight any such move.
"We know that it's a major issue and there has been talk of outsourcing to cut costs. It is a definite threat to long-term job security on the Clyde," he added.
Paul Lester, chief executive of VT, the Portsmouth-based shipbuilding company also involved in naval construction, warned last year that the MoD might try to trim costs by having hulls built abroad.
"There could be an opportunity to do this in Eastern Europe or even China and then have the hulls brought back to be outfitted in the UK. There is no doubt that the cost of steel and doing some of the fabrication work offshore would be 25% to 30% cheaper than doing it in the UK," he said.
Lord Drayson, the procurement minister, said: "The priority for Mars is for the build of these ships to harness the efficiency of specialist commercial shipbuilding practice. UK yards and suppliers who can demonstrate those levels of efficiency will be given every opportunity to compete for work."
If they build them in China, I am sure that the Chinese will use the finest Pig Iron available...