Troubled Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff could be in line to work on the Royal Navy’s Fleet Solid Support Ships (FSS) as part of a deal with Spanish state-owned shipbuilder Navantia.

The work could be destined for Belfast after InfraSanta, which is buying Harland and Wolff, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Navantia, one of the few remaining bidders for the FSS programme.

In a press release, Navantia said: “The agreement with InfraStrata, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange, will allow working with the Harland & Wolf shipyard both for the future development of FSS vessels and for other offshore projects.”

The MoU provides the basis for a more detailed agreement to share work on the FSS programme.

Navantia acknowledged the pausing of the programme and said: “During this transition period, and waiting for the new requirements for the FSS project to be published, Navantia continues working to better position itself in the reopening of the contest, where the English industry participation is predicted crucial.”

Other bidders for the contract include a British shipbuilding consortium Team UK, which plans to split the work between companies including BAE Systems, Babcock, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce.

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The Ministry of Defence (MOD) put the £1.5bn programme on hold in early November to ensure value for money of the contract.

At the time an MOD spokesperson told Naval Technology: “We can confirm that the Fleet Solid Support ship competition has been stopped, as it is clear that the current approach will not deliver the requirement.

“We are now considering the most appropriate way forward for the procurement project.”

The contract had drawn heavy criticism after the MOD decided not to classify the vessels as warships, making them eligible for international tender.

The MOD was originally set to make a decision on the contract in early 2020, however, a new government will now decide the fate of the tender after the general election.

John Wood interim president and CEO of InfraStrata said: “We are delighted to have entered into this agreement with Navantia, a company known worldwide not only for its shipbuilding capabilities but also for its experience in the sector of offshore infrastructure.

“The combination of the Navantia implementation in these sectors, together with the Harland & Wolff training, constitute the ideal environment to face great challenges.”