UK naval shipbuilding needs to be quicker, independent report finds

An independent report into UK’s naval shipbuilding has concluded that the small Royal Navy fleet is a result of too long procurement cycles, late orders for new ships and the policy of retaining old ships in the fleet beyond their sell date.

Sir John Parker’s Independent Report into naval shipbuilding also set out recommendations to transform the UK shipbuilding industry.

One of the recommendations would see the bulk of Royal Navy ships being allocated to more shipbuilders. Parker proposed that the construction of new Type 26 and Type 31 frigates take place at more than one shipyard indicating that Babcock or Cammell Laird could bid for the construction of Type 31 frigates.

Parker, who is currently chairman of mining company Anglo American, added that the Type 31 frigates should be built quickly to boost navy fleet numbers but also to have a competitive export product that could be designated as Type 31e.

“The new Type 31e should not set out to be a complex and sophisticated warship based on traditional design approaches. It should be a modern and innovative design on a standard platform which should provide a menu of choice to support exports and beat the competition. It should be termed Type 31e. The ‘e’ means that export flexibility is inbuilt, not a variant,” Parker said.

One of the opportunities that Parker identified was the way Scotland’s technology allowed for modular construction, in which ship components are produced across the UK before being assembled at a central Hub. The build of the Royal Navy’s largest ever warships, the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, has already demonstrated the success of such an approach, with multiple shipyards and hundreds of companies across the UK working together and benefiting from the aircraft carrier build.

“This report will inform our National Shipbuilding Strategy to match the needs of the Royal Navy with the ability to design and build efficiently, maintain skills, and maximise export opportunities,” UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said welcoming the report.

The UK government said it would publish a full response along with an implementation plan in spring 2017.

“Should government, industry and the trade unions rise to the challenges I have set, I believe we can establish a new era of collaboration and success across the ‘total enterprise’,” Parker concluded.

“It will create savings over the coming years for MOD, renew the Royal Navy fleet, position the UK for new export opportunities and create regional prosperity and highly skilled jobs across the UK in the shipyards and supply chain.”