Council backs campaign to build navy support ships in UK

Plymouth City Council is backing a campaign to ensure a new generation of Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships are built in the UK.

The campaign launched in the Council House in Plymouth today (Friday 13 July) aims to persuade the Government to protect dockyard jobs and skills by restricting bids to build the fleet Solid Support Ships (FSS) to the UK. Watch the video

The campaign, which is being led by the Unite and GMB trade unions through the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU), is being backed by the City Council following a motion agreed by the full Council. It is also being supported by Plymouth MPs Luke Pollard and Johnny Mercer.

The new ships, which will support the Royal Navy’s carrier strike capability by supplying vital supplies such as ammunition and spare parts, are expected to be built in time to be commissioned between 2026 and 2028 and the work will be valued at between £1 billion and £1.5 billion.

Council leader Tudor Evans, Shadow Leader Ian Bowyer, MPs Luke Pollard and Johnny Mercer and trade union leaders, including Ian Waddell, general secretary of the CSEU with the charter. 

However, the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSBS) makes it clear that the MoD does not regard these vessels in the same sense as its frigates and destroyers and plans to open the design and build up to international competition, whilst only “encouraging” UK bids.

Campaigners say the new ships should be treated as warships, which are excluded from competition under EU rules, especially as no other nation competes vessels of this size and complexity.

Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said: “The Council is backing this campaign because this issue could have a significant impact on Devonport and other dockyards around the UK.

Councillor Evans signs the charter

“The Government must support the retention of ship design, construction and maintenance jobs and capabilities in the UK, not those in other nations who already receive state support.

“Keeping this work in the UK is important for retaining skills at Devonport and Babcock could benefit from this work if it is carried out in the UK.

“We don’t believe there is any reason why Government should not change its approach and restrict bids to the UK.“Many foreign yards are state owned or receive a significant amount of support from their governments and UK yards are at an unfair disadvantage.

“It would be a win-win if the ships are built in the UK but a massive lose if they go elsewhere.”