Team Resolute, the consortium delivering three Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships for the UK Ministry of Defence, met with 150 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) earlier this month to brief senior representatives on the requirements and timings of the £1.6bn Fleet Solid Support (FSS) programme, due to be complete by 2032. 

The first event with SMEs was held in Belfast, where the three ships will be integrated, revitalising the ship-building industry in the area, with hopes of increasing the local workforce with an additional 800 jobs in the supply chain alone, as well as the 1200 jobs divided between Belfast and Devon’s Appledore. 

Concern has been raised before that developing the required workforce would be a great challenge in Belfast, as it would necessitate increasing the the 100 strong shipbuilder workforce in Belfast to be expanded multiple times to reach its share of the 1200 jobs being created. To achieve this end, shipbuilders would travel to Cadiz, Spain for a year long training programme. 

At the event’s opening, Belfast City Council Deputy Chair Ron McDowell emphasised the value of shipbuilding for the city and said, “This event recognises Team Resolute’s commitment to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises to form part of the Fleet Solid Support programme delivery and reinforces their commitment to social value, leading to real benefit for both residents and businesses.”

“It is fantastic that the FSS Programme is bringing ship building back to Belfast. We congratulate Team Resolute on being awarded the MOD contract and great to have this engagement with the outstanding supply chain in the region. This programme is excellent for Belfast, the community, and Northern Ireland”, said Dr Leslie Orr, Director ADS Northern Ireland.”

Team Resolute, a consortium comprising Navantia UK, BMT and Harland & Wolff, organised two events in close collaboration with the Society of Maritime Industries (SMI) and the Aerospace Defence and Security trade association (ADS). Senior representatives from the companies, along with representatives from Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and the National Shipbuilding Office (NSO), walked interested companies through the requirements, timelines, and procedures involved in building the three ships.

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“This engagement by Team Resolute with UK SMEs and supply chain companies on the £1.6bn Fleet Solid Support programme is a critical process in successfully delivering this key National Shipbuilding Strategy Refresh pipeline capability for the Royal Navy,” said RAdm Rex Cox, CEO of the National Shipbuilding Office, adding that shipyards must have a robust supply chain and ecosystem of SMEs in order to execute on significant government contracts. 

“Opportunities like FSS can be genuinely transformative for UK shipyards and the wider enterprise,” continued Cox, “and the NSO is committed to ensuring these contracts help to grow the capacity, capability and sustainability of the whole UK shipbuilding sector.”

Additional reporting from Richard Thomas.