The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a £9.9m contract to Merseyside-based Marine Specialised Technology (MST) for the delivery of two new fast patrol boats for the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar squadron.

The six-year contract will support 30 jobs and create 25 additional employment opportunities.

Work under the contract is expected to take around 18 months, with construction scheduled to commence this month at MST’s boatyard on Merseyside.

Delivery of the first boat is expected in the third quarter period of fiscal year 2021/22, while the second boat will be delivered in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022/23.

The remainder of the contract will offer four years of local in-service support.

New vessels will be used to patrol HMNB Gibraltar and British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW).

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Supporting the Royal Navy’s exercises and operations, the boats will closely monitor Gibraltar’s shores.

UK Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “These new vessels will enable the Royal Navy to maintain the security of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and protect British, Nato and allied ships transiting through the region.

“This contract will also support highly skilled jobs across the UK, which clearly demonstrates how national security and regional prosperity go hand in hand.”

The boats will provide force protection to vessels visiting UK and allied military vessels.

Once delivered, the boats will replace the Gibraltar Squadron Fast Patrol Craft, HMS Pursuer and Dasher.

HMS Pursuer and Dasher were Archer-class vessels that recently took over from Scimitar-class vessels HMS SABRE and HMS SCIMITAR, which were in service in Gibraltar for 17 years.

HMS Pursuer and Dasher are 19m boats that can move at speeds of up to 40kn. Armed with three machine-guns, each boat can carry a crew of six, along with up to six passengers.