Tyneside shipbuilder Swan Hunter has turned down the chance to bid for a share in the £1bn construction of three new Type 45 destroyers for the Royal Navy, saying BAE Systems would be likely to give preference to its own yards.
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon had said last week that all UK yards would be given the chance to bid for a share in the work, for which the prime contractor is BAE Systems. On the same day, the Ministry of Defence chief of defence procurement, Sir Robert Walmsley, said he knew of `no technical reason’ why Swan Hunter should not compete.
Initially, the company’s chairman Jaap Kroese seemed to jump at the chance, saying: `Of course we are going to be bidding.’ But no offer was forthcoming.
Norman Brownell, Swan Hunter commercial director, said the company would not participate in subcontracted construction work with BAE Systems.
He said the decision was not `sour grapes’, but was based on the fact that BAE has shipyards in Govan and Barrow-in-Furness and its preference would be to use its own facilities for the benefit of its shareholders.
The comments bear out an earlier Commons warning by South Shields MP David Clarke, who told Hoon that Swan Hunter was unlikely to gain work from a major commercial rival.
Swan Hunter described as `rubbish’ suggestions that its withdrawal would dash hopes of more jobs in the north east. Brownell said the company was confident of winning a £130m contract for two landing ship logistic vessels for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and would bid for the navy’s Future Surface Combatant which will replace the Type 23 frigate.
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