UK Docks is celebrating today after winning a £250m order from the Royal Navy which is set to create more than 100 new jobs.
The company currently services HMS Protector, the Royal Navy’s only icebreaker, at its dry docks on the River Tees but will now go on to service five more vessels over the next eight years under the new contract.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed this morning that the in-service support for HMS Tamar, HMS Spey, HMS Medway, HMS Trent and HMS Forth will be undertaken by UK Docks up until 2031.
And with the vessels operating persistently worldwide in the South Atlantic, North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indo-Asia Pacific, it means the South Shields-headquartered company will operate globally to ensure the maximum efficiency of the Royal Navy vessels.
The contract represents another huge win against stiff competition for UK Docks, which, in 2018 won a £150m, 10-year contract with the navy to service several of its smaller vessels.
That original contract was a huge step forward for a company originally founded by redundant ex-Swan Hunters’ worker Harry Wilson in a single boat repair yard in South Shields in 1995.
And this week’s new £250m deal takes UK Docks Marine Services to a higher level again.
UK Docks’ managing director Jonathan Wilson, Harry’s son, said: “We are delighted to have secured this new contract, which is the culmination of several years’ work showing UK Docks can deliver the highest standards of service and professionalism the Royal Navy requires for the maintenance of its vessels.
“To have been selected by the Ministry of Defence to support and maintain these five vessels ahead of some of the most historic and prestigious companies operating in this sector is an honour and a responsibility that we are very much aware of.
“The new contract is also a vote of confidence in UK Docks’ management and workforce and a recognition of the services that we have provided to the MoD over the last two decades.
“We see the awarding of this contract to UK Docks as a resounding vote of confidence in homegrown British industry, skills and capability and we look forward to putting those resources at the service of these five important vessels.”
The five ships are offshore patrol vessels, designed to be deployed globally and to carry out duties include humanitarian support, maritime defence and anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and anti-smuggling measures – tasks that had previously been conducted by frigates and destroyers.
At 90 metres long – roughly the length of two Olympic-size swimming pools – they are equipped with a 30mm cannon and flight deck capable of accommodating a Merlin helicopter, a range of more than 5,500 nautical miles and a top speed of more than 20 knots.
The first three – Forth, Medway and Trent – were built by BAE Systems shipyards on the River Clyde in Glasgow – Forth replaced HMS Clyde as the Falkland Islands guardship in
2019, Medway was deployed as the long-term Atlantic Patrol Task (North) ship in the Caribbean in 2020 and Trent was deployed to the Mediterranean in 2020 and is now permanently based in Gibraltar.
HMS Tamar and HMS Spey entered service in 2020 and 2021 respectively and are both on long-term deployment in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Jonathan explained: “Because of their long-term deployment overseas, it means UK Docks’ staff will be doing a lot of travelling abroad to carry out inspections and oversee maintenance, updates and improvements.
“It’s a logistically demanding job but once that we are very much capable of as a team and which we are very much looking forward to beginning.
“The new contract will create dozens of jobs here, based primarily in South Shields in the north east and Gosport on the south coast.
“We also expect well over 100 sub-contractor roles to be created to provide the capability and availability of support needed at reach to fulfil the contract where we will deliver remote support, technical, logistical and design agent services and management.”
The Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said of the deal: “Working closely with our industry partners, we are securing a future for these versatile and important Royal Navy ships, delivering on our promises for UK prosperity and sustained UK presence overseas.
“The project will also ensure more than 100 UK jobs are supported, contributing to the vibrant health of our shipbuilding industry.”