Navy to cut costs at Portsmouth, Devonport & Faslane

The Herald

Navy tells Faslane to cut costs by £30m, Ian Bruce, Defence Correspondent, February 21st 2007

The Royal Navy is aiming to reduce the cost of running the Clyde naval base at Faslane by £30m a year in the run-up to a radical review of fleet support facilities, which is likely to see the closure of one of the three main UK bases.

The Defence Logistics Organisation is carrying out a study into streamlining the back-up for a Navy which has shrunk to just 25 frigates and destroyers before a cabinet decision is taken later this year to rationalise jobs and services.

Faslane, Devonport and Portsmouth, the three surviving fleet "home ports", have all been ordered to prepare business plans for reducing their annual overheads by 16% in the meantime.

The Clyde base plays host to the UK's four Vanguard-class strategic missile submarines, a flotilla of nuclear hunter-killer submarines, and a squadron of mine-hunters.

It will also be home to the new generation of Astute attack boats, being built at Barrow-in-Furness, and the missile submarines which will eventually replace the Trident-armed Vanguards.

With more than 6000 civilian and military employees and a budget of £270m, it is also Scotland's single largest industrial site as well as the largest military base north of the border.

The vast majority of the civilian workforce is employed by Babcock naval services division, which also runs Rosyth shipyard in the Firth of Forth. The company has four years of a £400m extension contract awarded in 2005 still to complete.

Commodore Carolyn Stait, Faslane base commander, said: "There is more engineering and waterfront capacity than we need across the three UK naval bases for the future size and shape of the fleet and the way it will be operated.

"We simply cannot go on supporting the associated costs without prejudicing the front line, which is the only reason we have naval bases in the first place."

Three areas for potential savings being examined by Faslane's Clyde Forward team are a widening of industrial partnering agreements, concentration of workshops and offices scattered across the site and exploring areas where income can be earned by using existing facilities for outside contracts.

In consultation with the trades unions on site, the team hopes to have concrete proposals which can be implemented by April next year.

Portsmouth, the spiritual home and historic headquarters of the Navy, is seen as the most vulnerable of the three bases as the surface fleet continues to shrink and the government is committed to maintaining a submarine-launched nuclear deterrent.

Devonport, refurbished at huge public expense to enable the refit of nuclear submarines, and Faslane are likely to escape the axe, although both will be forced to slash costs.

While Portsmouth is home to 47 surface ships, it has become a dumping ground for mothballed vessels. In June last year it had 19 ships either awaiting sale or scrapping.

A further 16 warships were on "active duty", but moored alongside because of shortages of spares, crews and fuel.

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