A new investigation carried out by shipbuilding workers’ union GMB has revealed that overseas shipyards are interested in competing for the major £1bn defence contract for the British Royal Navy’s three new Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships.

The new Fleet Solid Support vessels will be required to service the Royal Navy’s £6.3bn Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and their strikeforce of new F-35 Lightning II fighter jets.

The UK Ministry of Defence has announced that the order is scheduled to go out to full international tender on 30 April.

"At a time when global tensions are rising, the government should use this order to ‘buy for Britain’ and rebuild our defence shipbuilding manufacturing capabilities."

A number of shipbuilding companies from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea and Spain have announced their intention to bid for the contract.

However, GMB said that the UK Government needs to reverse its decision to put the contract out to international bidders.

The new GMB research reveals that the contract would be able to generate or sustain up to 6,700 employment opportunities in the UK if awarded to local shipbuilding companies, including 1,800 shipyard jobs.

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The study also showed that an additional 4,700 jobs could be secured across the country’s wider supply chain, including the steel industry.

In addition, GMB estimates that a total of £285m would be returned to the taxpayer via income tax, national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments.

GMB Shipbuilding national officer Ross Murdoch said: “We have a highly skilled shipbuilding workforce in the UK that is more than capable of making these ships at a fair market price.

“We face being sold down the river if the work goes to artificially subsidised international competitor shipyards instead.

“At a time when global tensions are rising, the government should use this order to ‘buy for Britain’ and rebuild our defence shipbuilding manufacturing capabilities.”

The decision to put out the orders for the construction of the RFA ships to international tender comes despite the UK Government’s current policy of constructing all Royal Navy vessel indigenously.