UK Docks servicing Royal Navy ships at Teesside and South Shields

UK Docks, which currently services HMS Protector, the Royal Navy’s only icebreaker, in its dry docks on the River Tees, will now service and service five more vessels over the next eight years.

The Ministry of Defense has announced that UK Docks will be responsible for the commissioning of HMS Tamar, HMS Spey, HMS Medway, HMS Trent and HMS Forth by 2031.

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With the vessels permanently operating around the world in the South Atlantic, North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indo-Asia Pacific, this means the South Shields-headquartered company will operate globally to ensure the vessels’ maximum efficiency.

The contract marks another major win against stiff competition for UK Docks, which was awarded a ten-year £150m contract with the Navy in 2018 to maintain several of its smaller vessels.

That original deal was a major step forward for a company originally founded in 1995 by fired former Swan Hunters employee Harry Wilson on a farm in South Shields.

The Northern Echo: Managing Director Jonathan WilsonManaging Director Jonathan Wilson (Image: press release)Jonathan Wilson, Managing Director of UK Docks, Harry’s son, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this new contract which is the culmination of several years of work and shows that UK Docks can deliver the highest standards of service and professionalism that the Royal Navy requires the maintenance of its ships.

“To have been selected by the Department of Defense to support and maintain these five ships in front of some of the most traditional and prestigious companies in the sector is an honor and a responsibility that we are very aware of.

“The new contract is also a vote of confidence for UK Docks management and staff and a recognition of the service we have provided to the Ministry of Defense over the past two decades.

“We see the award of this contract to UK Docks as a clear vote of confidence in UK domestic industry, its capabilities and capabilities and we look forward to putting these resources at the service of these five important vessels.”

The Northern Echo: HMS ProtectorHMS protector (Image: press release)

The five vessels are offshore patrol vessels designed for global operations, performing duties such as humanitarian assistance, maritime defense and counter-piracy, counter-terrorism and smuggling — roles previously performed by frigates and destroyers.

At 90 meters long – about the length of two Olympic swimming pools – they are armed with a 30mm cannon and a flight deck that can accommodate 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 guard ship in 2019, Medway became a long-term Atlantic Patrol Task (North) ship deployed to the Caribbean in 2020 and Trent deployed to the Mediterranean in 2020 and is now permanently based in Gibraltar.

HMS Tamar and HMS Spey were commissioned in 2020 and 2021 respectively and are both on long-term service in the Indo-Asia Pacific.

The Northern Echo: A Batch 2 offshore patrol vessel as used by UK Docks.A Series 2 offshore patrol vessel as used by UK Docks. (Image: press release)

Jonathan Wilson explained: “Because of their long-term assignment abroad, this means that UK Docks staff will be traveling abroad frequently to carry out inspections and oversee maintenance, updates and improvements.

“It’s a logistically demanding job, but we as a team are definitely up to it and we’re really looking forward to it.

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“The new contract will create dozens of jobs here, mainly in South Shields and at our Gosport docks on the south coast.

“We also anticipate that well over 100 subcontractor roles will be created to provide the capability and availability of support needed to fulfill the contract. In doing so, we will provide remote support as well as technical, logistical and creative agent services as well as management.”

Government Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said of the deal: “Working closely with our industrial partners, we are securing the future of these versatile and vital Royal Navy vessels and delivering on our promises to Britain’s prosperity and a sustainable UK presence abroad .”

“The project will also ensure that more than 100 UK jobs are supported, contributing to the vibrant health of our shipbuilding industry.” UK Docks servicing Royal Navy ships at Teesside and South Shields

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