SHIPBUILDERS wanting to build a new polar research ship in Portsmouth would need to be in place by May 2015, it has been revealed.
In a letter to Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock, minister for Portsmouth Michael Fallon said that is when the tender will be issued for the construction of the ship.
City leaders are hopeful the vessel could be built in the shipyard, which is soon to be vacated by BAE Systems after its decision to close its shipbuilding operations here.
In the letter, Mr Fallon said: ‘This is a huge opportunity for British shipbuilders and the Portsmouth dockyard in particular.
‘We will be working hard to make sure they are aware of the potential the project offers.
‘We have world-class skills and technology in this area and we hope that UK marine and maritime companies will want to get on board at every level – from the design and building of the ship, through to its operation and maintenance.’
Chancellor George Osborne announced in April that £200m was being made available for the funding of the scientific survey ship.
The new vessel will go towards replacing the UK’s two current polar exploration ships – RSS James Clark Ross and RSS Ernest Shackleton – which are nearing the end of their lives.
The ship will have on board laboratories, and will carry cutting-edge technology including robotic submarines to gather data on marine biology and ocean conditions.
Mr Hancock said in a statement released by his office: ‘This represents the ideal opportunity to give one of the interested groups the chance to bid and hopefully construct the ship, thereby saving shipbuilding in Portsmouth.
‘What we need from the government though, at the very least, is a firm commitment that the ship will be built in the UK.’