play_circle_filled In progress

Economy Economy

Create a successful shipbuilding sector

Last updated: 04:15pm 29 November 2019

We want to replicate that success [from aero and automotive engineering sectors] in other sectors – like shipbuilding where, for the first time in decades, there is the prospect of a renaissance.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.21

Our verdict

In the 2017 manifesto, the Conservative Party indicated the opportunity of a ‘renaissance’ in shipbuilding, replicating the successes of the ‘aero and automotive engineering sectors’.  We think ‘renaissance’ is probably best understood in terms of economic growth and sustainability of the industry.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy, published in September 2017, endorses the implementation of recommendations from Sir John Parker’s independent report. It is designed to grow the shipbuilding industry through increasing competitiveness, focusing on exports, clamping down financially and encouraging innovation. The strategy is in the form of a 30-year “master plan” for naval ships and boats, making it harder to evaluate in the short-term.

The September 2019 update on the Shipbuilding Strategy found many shipyards had struggled economically (shutting down or having to be nationalised). However, a contract for the potentially profitable new Type 31e frigates has been successfully agreed. Sir John Parker in 2019 gave a mixed verdict, saying changes were needed whilst some progress was being made. Likewise, in November 2019 – against the recommendations of the National Shipbuilding Strategy – the MoD halted bidding on a £1 billion contract for support ships, partly to allow offers from international bidders who have subsequently pulled out.

With the 30-year plan far from fully implemented – and currently yielding mixed results – it remains to be seen whether shipbuilding can replicate the success of aero and automotive engineering. As such, this policy will remain ‘in progress’.

Succeed with the facts!

There's always room for debate

We’re serious about providing clear, up-to-date, non-partisan information. We focus on being consistent and fair in how we reach our verdicts, and always explain our reasoning. But there is always room for debate. So if you see it differently, we’d love you to tell us why. Or even better, submit an edit.