Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Merseyside on Thursday to announce the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy with Birkenhead shipyard Cammell Laird set to benefit from a £4bn investment pot. Tony McDonough reports
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today offer Merseyside shipyard Cammell Laird a major slice of a £4bn investment into UK shipbuilding.
Mr Johnson will visit Merseyside on Thursday to coincide with the publication by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the UK’s long-awaited National Shipbuilding Strategy which will offer a 30-year pipeline of work for shipyards and their suppliers across the UK.
He will announce a £4bn injection into regional shipbuilding to support thousands of high-quality jobs. Late last month LBN revealed the launch of the strategy was imminent. The Prime Minister will unveil plans to build more than 150 new naval and civil vessels.
The strategy will outline how the Government will support UK shipyards across the nation to upskill workers, create high-quality jobs, drive technology development and ensure UK shipbuilding delivers on “next-generation challenges”.
It will also look to build on the UK’s increased support for European defence capability in the face of rising Russian aggression. UK defence giant Babcock has already been chosen as Poland’s preferred partner to deliver three new warships based on the UK’s Type 31 design.
Over the past decade Cammell Laird has established particular expertise in what is described as “block building”. That is building sections of ships that are then transported and assembled at other locations.
Between 2014 and 2016 the Birkenhead shipyard built flight deck hangers and accommodation sections for the new HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carriers for the Ministry of Defence (MOD). That work was worth tens of millions of pounds and sustained hundreds of jobs.
LBN understands Lairds is particularly keen to secure contracts for the building of three new fleet solid support vessels for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). The current nine ships of the RFA flotilla are civilian-crewed and provide logistical support for the Royal Navy.
Cammell Laird is well acquainted with this fleet. In 2018 the business won two 10-year contracts to provide the maintenance and upkeep of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels worth a total of £619m. It followed on from a similar deal it secured a decade earlier.
During his visit the Prime Minister will meet apprentices and shipbuilding experts to understand how UK Government investment is creating jobs and levelling up communities across the country.
The UK’s historic shipbuilding industry currently supports 42,600 jobs across the UK, from Cornwall to Belfast and Govan, and contributes more than £2.8bn to the economy. Mr Johnson said: “Shipbuilding has been in our blood for centuries and I want to ensure it remains at the heart of British industry for generations to come.
“The National Shipbuilding Strategy will transform this important and crucial industry, creating jobs, driving technology development and upskilling the shipbuilders of tomorrow, ensuring we are levelling up across every dock, port and shipyard in the UK.”
The PM will also reveal plans to establish a new UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce, led by the Department for Education. The taskforce will work with industry and training providers across the UK to identify and address skills gaps.
And the Department for Transport will invest £206m in the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK-SHORE) to match fund research and development in zero emission vessels and infrastructure and ensure our place as global leader in green technology.
Bibby Marine, a division of one of Liverpool’s oldest firms Bibby Line Group, will be looking for Government backing for its WaveMaster Zero C project which aims to build a prototype for a new generation of low carbon vessels. LBN understands that building the prototype would cost around £50m.
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of industry body Mersey Maritime, welcomed the announcement on shipbuilding and added the £206m fund for reducing emissions would also provide a massive boost to firms in Liverpool city region’s £4bn maritime sector.
He said: “Maritime is at the heart of this nation and this region. We have some of the best maritime institutions and companies in the world right here on our doorstep. This new fund, which is just part of the increased funding from Government, shows real confidence in our industry.
“We look forward to working with our partners, including local government, academia and industry, to create the dynamic maritime projects of the future. We will work to ensure the Liverpool city region is a world leader in maritime technology and decarbonisation, creating jobs and prosperity for decades to come.”
A new £11m Maritime Capability Campaign Office (MCCO) within the Department for International Trade will also be established. The MCCO will coordinate export support across government and industry and use robust analysis to improve our understanding about global markets, helping maritime suppliers to win export orders and increase UK market share.