BAE could snub Portsmouth with new frigate build

PLANNING A first early design picture of the navy's new Type 26 frigate.
PLANNING A first early design picture of the navy's new Type 26 frigate.

Engine woes end mission

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PORTSMOUTH dockyard could miss out on building the first of the Royal Navy’s new class of frigates, The News has learnt.

A well-placed source has revealed a BAE Systems executive told them the new Type 26 programme will begin in the firm’s yards in Scotland later this decade.

It comes as BAE reviews whether to carry on building ships in Portsmouth – potentially placing 4,000 local jobs at risk.

A company spokeswoman said the decision on where it will build the Type 26s won’t be finalised until 2014.

But a Westminster source said: ‘At a meeting last week, BAE said the first Type 26 will be made in Glasgow.

‘From what BAE said, there would have to be investment in its facilities to accommodate the Type 26 in Portsmouth, so the first one will be done in Scotland.’

There are fears this will mean Portsmouth may never see any of the much-needed Type 26 work.

There will already be a gap in work from the end of 2014 when city shipbuilders complete the last parts of the navy’s aircraft carriers.

Defence economics expert Dr Michael Asteris, of the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘In the absence of alternative orders, this would be pretty bad news for Portsmouth.

‘This raises the question of what will happen to the yard in Portsmouth because mothballing it is not an option. You wonder if this is the death knell?’

BAE Systems employs 1,700 shipbuilders at Portsmouth Naval Base.

These jobs are at risk under the company’s review which began in January.

As reported last week, an economic study warned as many as 2,300 local supply chain jobs could also be lost if the defence giant stops building ships in the city.

BAE’s review is solely focused on the future of its shipbuilding division.

The 1,300 Portsmouth jobs in its ship maintenance and repair facility for the navy’s fleet are not affected and the MoD has stressed Portsmouth Naval Base will continue to be the home of the Royal Navy fleet.

As previously reported, The News understands BAE is pushing for all 13 of the Type 26 frigates to be based in Portsmouth from 2020 to increase its fleet repair and maintenance operations within the naval base.

This could offset some job losses within the shipbuilding side of the dockyard.

Amid the uncertainty, a campaign has been launched to keep Portsmouth’s shipbuilding industry alive.

An online petition has been set up by savetheroyalnavy.org which calls on the MoD to prevent BAE Systems closing its yard. It can be signed by visiting epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/35375