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UK calls a halt to fleet support ship competition

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 5 November abruptly halted the international competition for up to three new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), citing concerns over value for money and commercial non-compliance.

“It is clear that the current approach will not deliver the requirement,” the MoD told Jane’s . “We are now considering the most appropriate way forward for the procurement project.”

The move, which has been welcomed by UK trade unions, industry bodies and many politicians, came just a day after a report by Sir John Parker, whose recommendations shaped the National Shipbuilding Strategy, criticised the government for its decision to openly compete defence work among non-UK yards.

Worth approximately GBP1.5 billion (USD1.93 billion), the FSS programme is intended to deliver new ships from 2026 to replace RFA Fort Austin , RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Fort Victoria . The new solid support capability is primarily required to deliver ammunition and stores at the necessary tempo and volume to support the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) future carrier-based Maritime Task Group.

In November 2018 the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation shortlisted five bidders – Italy’s Fincantieri, DSME of South Korea, Japan Marine United Corporation, Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, and the Team UK consortium of Babcock, BAE Systems, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce – to bid for the FSS programme. However, all bidders bar Navantia (teamed with the UK's BMT) and Team UK subsequently withdrew from the competition.

FSS technical proposals were returned to DE&S in July this year, with final commercial proposals submitted in early September. Best and final offers were due to be submitted in February next year, with a contract award planned before the end of May.

        Fort Austin
        is one of three vessels intended to be replaced by new ships in the Fleet Solid Support programme, but the MoD halted the tender on 6 November.
       (NAVYPIX/Richard Scott)

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