Even just ten years ago shipbuilding in Scotland was described as a ‘feast and famine’ industry with effectively one or two shipyards hiring large numbers of new staff to work on a small number of new ships.
This would then be followed by the ‘famine’ stage, with layoffs and uncertainty over whether or not there will be any future orders and whether or not the yard would have to close. Now, I believe, the industry is facing a much-improved situation.
Shipbuilding in Scotland is, primarily, structured to be able to meet the capability demands of the Royal Navy.
However, the National Shipbuilding Strategy aimed to encourage the shipbuilding side of the defence industry to reduce its dependence on the Ministry of Defence as a sole customer and concentrate effort in securing a wider potential share of the international market.
With the success of the Type 26 and Type 31 designs in the export market, this aim of reducing dependence on the Ministry of Defence is being achieved to a small degree.
Additionally, another aim of the National Shipbuilding Strategy was to reduce the reliance of the Ministry of Defence on one provider for the UK’s surface warships, namely BAE on the Clyde currently building the Type 26 Frigate and eventually, it is expected, the Type 83 Destroyer.
This shift in strategy has allowed Babcock at Rosyth to enter the business of complex warship construction in Scotland with the Type 31 Frigate and to sustain this down the line with the planned Type 32 Frigate.
The expected order book for Scottish military shipyards in the years ahead is as follows.
In short, the shipyards have work or are planning for work up to the 2040s. This work is primarily focused in Glasgow and in Rosyth and is almost entirely Royal Navy warships. One Ukrainian warship was also planned for Rosyth. It is expected that the second batch of Type 26 Frigates will be confirmed soon as long-lead items have already been ordered.
I have included the Type 32 Frigate in the below chart after remarks from the Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace stating, “In Rosyth, work is ongoing to build the facility needed to build the Type 31s and the subsequent Type 32s”, this is amid speculation that the vessel will be a follow-on product related to the Type 31 vessels being built at Rosyth.
Type 83 has also been included as, in my discussions with industry, I have been made aware that BAE Systems on the Clyde is the expected location for these to be built due to an “aspiration is to achieve continuous shipbuilding in Glasgow beyond the current planned number of eight vessels”.
Today there is a steady ‘drumbeat’ of orders at two shipyards and the plans for future classes are well known, allowing for certainty, the retention of skills and greater investment. All of this contributes to bring down the cost of the vessels in the longer term. In short, there’s now more work for more people at more yards.