Although the government in London promised that the construction of a new generation of missile frigates for the Royal Navy would help revive the British shipbuilding industry, their components are being manufactured in Poland, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.
Polish shipyards are producing the hull blocks of the newly built Type 31 frigates, later assembled at a shipyard in Rosyth, north of Edinburgh, the newspaper revealed. It is not clear what part of the work is being done in Poland.
Sources at Babcock International, which won the tender to build the Type 31 frigates, stress that only a ‘very small’ proportion of the work is being carried out in Poland, given its value, and that the aim is to help Warsaw prepare to build similar ships itself. However, the Daily Telegraph noted that a significant part of the value of a warship is the weapons systems, radars and other sensors, as well as the propulsion and control equipment. This means that the workload can be significant, even if its value is not great.
According to the Journal, this raises questions about the government’s plans to revive the UK’s shipbuilding industry, to which the construction of Type 31 frigates and the larger, and much more expensive, Type 26 frigates was expected to contribute. It was recalled that when a tender to build five Type 31 frigates was launched as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy in 2017, the then Defence Minister Michael Fallon described it as a “huge opportunity” for UK shipyards.
Unofficial sources and commentators emphasise that Babcock has only contracted PGZ Shipyard to build a small portion of the hull blocks for HMS Active – one of the five Type 31 frigates ordered, which blocks reportedly represent less than 1 per cent of the value of the entire Type 31 frigate programme. With that said, the order is not intended to support British shipyards, supplement their production capacity or fill gaps. The aim is to enable a Polish shipyard to “train” in production processes and project management, to help it prepare for the construction of similar ships in Poland (of the “Miecznik” type for the Polish Navy).
The same British sources draw the attention of those who loudly criticise the commissioning of a certain (small) part of the work on the construction of Type 31 frigates to a Polish shipyard (as an alleged betrayal of the interests of the UK, which was – according to the declarations of those in power – supposed to support and develop the domestic shipbuilding industry) to the fact that, in turn, part of the hull blocks for the Polish frigates will be built in Scotland.
“The Daily Telegraph recalled that last year the Spanish shipyard Navantia won the tender to build support ships for the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, and much of the associated work will be done in Spain. However, the government in London is pushing for at least half of the work to take place in the UK.
It was also noted that in 2022 Babcock beat German company ThyssenKrupp in a tender to build three Miecznik frigates for the Polish Navy. They will be twin versions of the British Type 31 frigates, but will be built to Babcock’s design in Polish shipyards.