The Government is planning widespread cuts in the navy’s fleet of frigates endangering hundreds of dockyard jobs according to evidence which emerged this week.
The scrapping of a warship refit is said by industry sources to provide hard evidence that the Ministry of Defence will cut the frigate fleet as part of the defence review. The refit of the frigate HMS Beaver which would have cost well over £10m was to have been awarded to Devonport as part of its promised core programme of work but was cancelled last month.
DML, the company running the privatised Devonport yard, said the one-year refit would have started this autumn, in a package of work representing around 25% of its 1998 core programme. ‘The ministry is trying to achieve various balances and one of the things it is contemplating is a change in the size of the frigate fleet,’ DML said.
Another shipyard source predicted that between two and six Type 22 frigates like Beaver would go, as would four Type 42 destroyers.
The MoD said it was re-examining the refit programme in the light of the strategic defence review. ‘On balance we decided not to commit to that work. The option to reinsert it in future will remain until we have reached final decisions on future force levels,’ a spokesman said.
Because the Beaver refit was part of Devonport’s core programme, the MoD must provide financial compensation or substitute the work with another job.
The MoD could replace the Beaver contract with a refit of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Grey Rover. This would worry other shipyards, as this job was competitively tendered.
Bids were invited in February for the Grey Rover refit and were due back to the MoD last week.
Invitations went to A&P Tyne, Cammell Laird, Harland & Wolff Ship Repair, Semple & Cochrane, Tyne Tees Dockyard and Wright & Beyer.