The two companies have signed an ‘exclusive Teaming Agreement’ to bid for the Fleet Solid Support Ship (FSS) contract with BMT listed as an exclusive subcontractor should the team win the contract.

The teaming follows a troubled year for Harland and Wolff which went into administration last August and was later acquired by InfraStrata.

In a press release Team Resolute wrote: “Team Resolute combines 159 years of shipbuilding experience at one of the UK’s biggest shipyards, including the two largest dry docks in Europe, with unrivalled auxiliary design experience from UK designer BMT and a world-leading auxiliary shipbuilding track record from Navantia.”

The teaming agreement follows a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by InfraStrata and Navantia last year that raised hopes the Fleet Solid Support Ship contract would be awarded to a UK contractor. The MoU laid the groundwork for further discussion on sharing work on the programme should it be awarded to Navantia.

The partnership described its offer to build the Fleet Solid Support Ships as ‘low risk and value for money UK solution’ based on the companies’ experience in building similar support vessels for foreign navies.

If successful in its bid, the FSS ships would be designed by BMT and assembled at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast shipyard incorporating ‘wider UK fabrication, materials and equipment.’

Under the deal, Navantia would also supply ‘digital shipyard knowledge’ to Harland and Wolff, which the partnership says could improve efficiency by up to 20%. The technology would be used for the FSS programme and other UK naval modernisation efforts that Team Resolute hopes to secure.

BMT has experience in designing ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, having designed the Tide-class tankers which provide Royal Navy vessels with fuel and other stores while underway. Despite being designed by BMT the ships were built by Daewoo in South Korea.

In its press release, the trio said its bid for the FSS contract was ‘the ideal partnership for assured FSS delivery’ building on BMT’s ‘unique design experience’ which it said would shrink development time. The group added: “Harland & Wolff’s and Navantia’s joint unparalleled dry dock capacity will minimise the FSS ships entry to service for the Carrier Strike Group.”

Executives respond to the partnership

InfraStrata CEO John Wood, said: “This partnership has the capability and credibility to disrupt the UK defence shipbuilding duopoly that currently exists, providing much-needed competition in the defence sector to ensure value for money and guaranteed delivery.

“Team Resolute will create a more level playing field when competing for upcoming defence contracts. It will also provide Harland & Wolff with a strong proposition to tender for contracts in the oil & gas, cruise & ferry, commercial and renewable sectors. We have always selected our partners carefully. In Navantia, we see a long term partner not only within the defence sector – we are also in advanced discussions for further teaming agreements in relation to offshore wind farms.”

Navantia Director of International Defence & Security and spokesperson Abel Méndez commented:

“It is clear that under a new management team, Harland & Wolff is a shipyard that is forward-thinking, agile and ready to do business. We are excited about this new collaboration and the opportunities it will bring for both partners.”

BMT business development director Rob Teasdale said: “BMT is excited to be part of Team Resolute with leading shipyards Harland & Wolff and Navantia to provide a dedicated partnership for UK’s Future Solid Support (FSS) ships.

“This new cooperation for Team Resolute, under which the three companies will work together on the FSS project, will lend our globally renowned ship design capabilities on a world-leading capability for UK’s defence and national security requirements. We look forward to working with Harland & Wolff to modernise and strengthen the UK’s sovereign shipbuilding capability.

“The combination of BMT’s experience across the maritime sector and our heritage in ship design is the ideal pedigree to bring large and challenging projects to successful fruition. With the reopening of the contest anticipated later this year, BMT stands ready with Harland & Wolff and Navantia to offer a modern approach to the FSS program that will contribute to sovereign shipbuilding and prosperity for the United Kingdom for years to come.”

Fleet Solid Support Ships: controversy and carrier strike

The FSS vessels are designed to supply vessels with ammunition, food, and other requisites while underway, a role currently filled by RFA Fort Austin and RFA Fort Rosalie. The contract to build the ships received criticism after the Ministry of Defence (MOD) decided not to classify the vessels as warships paving the way for the ships to be built overseas and not in UK shipyards.

Late last year the £1bn three-ship contract was put on ice by the MOD which said the current approach to acquisition ‘will not deliver the requirement.’ The MOD also said it was looking to ensure the programme delivered ongoing value for money.

The programme has yet to be restarted, however, in May, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said he expects the programme to recommence in September this year.

Commenting on the current status of the programme an MOD spokesperson told Naval Technology: “We continue work on the procurement strategy for the Fleet Solid Support ship and will provide further details when the current stage is completed.”

Harland and Wolff, Navantia and BMT

Harland and Wolff was founded in 1861 and its facilities include some of the largest dry docks in Europe, the shipyard went into administration last year and was acquired by InfraStrata put in place a new management team to oversee the company.

Spanish-based Navantia has delivered 40 ships in the last five years including vessels for several international customers including Turkey, Australia, and Norway. Under the deal, Navantia and Harland and Wolff could work concurrently on contracts between the pairs shipyards in Belfast and Puerto Real.

BMT works across defence and several other sectors. The company worked on the design of the UK’s two Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carriers as well as the Tide class tankers in service with the RFA.