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4 minute read - 6th February 2023

Harland & Wolff secures naval contract worth more than £700m

Harland & Wolff has now formally signed a subcontract manufacturing agreement with Navantia UK to deliver three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Under the terms of the contract, Harland & Wolff will be responsible for delivering works worth more than £700m through the life of the programme. The vessels being built will provide munitions, stores and provisions to the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates.

The works will last seven years and will commence in 2023, bringing long term employment and providing the company with significant revenue until 2031. Harland & Wolff will be responsible for the fabrication of various blocks, including some mega blocks (a block incorporating several standard-sized blocks), as well as the procurement of a number of items of equipment to be installed on each vessel in Belfast.

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Harland & Wolff has secured a contract worth more than £700m to build three vessels for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary / Picture: BMT

All three bow sections for the FSS programme will be fabricated at Harland & Wolff’s Appledore site in North Devon prior to being transported to its facility in Belfast. The three vessels will have all the blocks assembled, consolidated, fully integrated and commissioned before proceeding to sea trials from the Belfast facility, marking a return to shipbuilding in Belfast after more than twenty years.

Full scale fabrication is due to commence in 2025, with the vessels due to be delivered to meet the Ministry Of Defence’s objective to bring three ships into service by 2032.

During the next 24 months, the Belfast and Appledore facilities will benefit from a £77m capital investment programme. In Belfast, an extension to the fabrication halls will be undertaken to facilitate a dynamic material and sub-structure production flow, along with efficient manufacturing and production processes. Investments will be made in robotic and autonomous equipment that includes material movement, marking, plate cutting, panel lines and robotic welding.

The works kickstart a £77m capital investment programme for Harland & Wolff, with the vessels set to enter service by 2032 / Picture: BMT

In addition, new larger paint buildings will be constructed to facilitate larger and more efficient block painting. The investments in Belfast will mean the yard has one of the most technologically advanced marine fabrication facilities in the UK with the latest state-of-the-art machinery and production flows.

Appledore will benefit from upgrades to the shipyard roof, along with investments in additional automated machinery that includes the relocation of the existing micro panel line from Belfast. Pre-planning applications have already been submitted and demolition works are expected to start shortly in Belfast, with the new facility coming to life over the next two years.

At the peak of the programme, Harland & Wolff will be providing employment to over 1,200 personnel – 900 in Belfast and 300 in Appledore – with over 100 graduates and apprentices across the two sites.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fleet Solid Support vessels will provide munitions, stores and provisions to the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates / Picture: BMT

John Wood, group chief executive officer at Harland & Wolff, said: “I am delighted that we have formally signed the subcontract with Navantia, a very significant project that will provide a substantial revenue for the business for the next seven years.

“The addition of this programme moves us materially closer to our target of £1bn of contracted backlog of work by the end of 2023, enabling us to take long-term decisions and continue to invest in our facilities to ensure that we are at the forefront of the development of state-of-the-art marine fabrication facilities in the UK.

“We can now commence work on the programme with the initial focus being on completing the recapitalisation plan over the next two years in preparedness for the start of production in 2025. As the final strategic piece in the carrier strike force, I look forward to working closely with our partners in Team Resolute over the coming years to deliver these state-of-the-art vessels to the crews of the Royal Navy on time and on budget.”

Team Resolute is a UK-based collaboration between Harland & Wolff, Navantia UK and BMT. The companies will work together to deliver the three Fleet Solid Support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

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