There are concerns from executives, unions and analysts over the UK government’s approach towards the £1.5bn competition to build three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships.
The controversial tendering process has already seen the UK Ministry of Defence flip-flop over the classification of the vessels, while those involved said the government’s approach to the programme risks undermining stated ambitions to provide a steady stream of work at British yards.
The MoD initially put the tender for the vessels, which will supply the Navy’s aircraft carriers with equipment, ammunition and food so that they can stay at sea for extended periods, out to international competition, in 2019. The ships were reclassified as warships last year, which should have meant that they would be built in the UK.
However, last September, the government published the list of the four consortiums that had been awarded £5mn contracts to develop their bids. The list included businesses based in India and the Netherlands, alongside British defence heavyweights BAE Systems and Babcock International Group, which are part of a consortium dubbed “Team UK”. Then, some of the members of the four consortiums were recently told that indicative proposals were “too high” and to “go back to the drawing board”, three people familiar with the situation confirmed.
Formal bids are due to be submitted this summer, with the contract awarded next spring. The Defence Industry Group at the Prospect union, said bidders were specifically told to take out the costs to make the ships in the UK and to “put them abroad”.