H&W welcomes prospect of naval work

Good news for Belfast?

Good news for Belfast?

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Proposals to share future naval shipbuilding around UK yards including Harland & Wolff have been warmly welcomed in Belfast.

The report prepared by Ulster-born industrialist Sir John Parker - a former chief executive at H&W - was published in London on Monday and contains many criticisms of the current status quo with Royal Naval procurement.

Although it is unlikely a brand new warship would ever be built entirely in Belfast, Sir John’s call for “sea-change” in current procurement procedures would see ships built in modular form across the UK for final assembly at a specific hub.

Current processes led to time delays in the supply of new vessels which in turn left old ships “retained in service well beyond their sell-by date with all the attendant high costs of so doing”.

Sir John said there was a “vibrant” UK shipbuilding, marine and defence supply chain sector which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should harness.

In London for the report’s launch, H&W director of business development Jonathan Guest said it was a welcome development for the Belfast yard which last week announced it had secured a £20 million marine fabrication project.

“For us it’s part of a longer strategy to try and break back into that naval work,” he said.

“The first jobs that are coming up are the next tranche of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary fleet and we would be throwing our hat into the ring for that.

“It is in the early stages but it is vitally important for us to get our name in that frame because you can easily be overlooked.

“From a manufacturing point of view that would be right up our street. We probably wouldn’t have the infrastracture to start from scratch to build vessels, but we’d be very capable of putting blocks in place and shiping them across to wherever the final assembly yard would be.”

Born in Co Down, Sir John, 74, has had a distinguished career in industry chairing five FTSE 100 companies and is a past president of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He was commissioned to produce the naval report by the Ministty of Defence.