100 jobs as boat company that launched in tiny North East yard wins …

UK Docks MD MD Jonathan Wilson and HMS Medway <i>(Image: UK Docks)</i>

UK Docks MD MD Jonathan Wilson and HMS Medway (Image: UK Docks)

A North East marine services company originally set up in a one-boat repair yard has win a huge £250m order from the Royal Navy which will create more than 100 new jobs.

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

The Ministry of Defence has announced that the in-service support for HMS Tamar, HMS Spey, HMS Medway, HMS Trent and HMS Forth will be undertaken by UK Docks up until 2031.

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With the vessels operating persistently worldwide in the South Atlantic, North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indo-Asia Pacific, it means the South Shields-headquartered company will be operating globally to ensure the maximum efficiency of the vessels.

The contract represents another huge win against stiff competition for UK Docks, who, in 2018 won a £150m, ten-year contract with the navy to service several of its smaller vessels.

That original contract was a huge step forward for a company originally founded by redundant ex-Swan Hunters’ worker Harry Wilson in a yard in South Shields in 1995.

The Northern Echo: Managing Director Jonathan WilsonThe Northern Echo: Managing Director Jonathan Wilson

The Northern Echo: Managing Director Jonathan Wilson

Managing Director Jonathan Wilson (Image: Press release)UK Docks’ Managing Director Jonathan Wilson, Harry’s son, said: “We are delighted to have secured this new contract, which is the culmination of several years of work showing UK Docks can deliver the highest standards of service and professionalism the Royal Navy requires for the maintenance of its vessels.

“To have been selected by the Ministry of Defence to support and maintain these five vessels ahead of some of the most historic and prestigious companies operating in this sector is an honour and a responsibility that we are very much aware of.

“The new contract is also a vote of confidence in UK Docks’ management and workforce and a recognition of the services that we have provided to the MoD over the last two decades.

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“We see the awarding of this contract to UK Docks as a resounding vote of confidence in homegrown British industry, skills and capability and we look forward to putting those resources at the service of these five important vessels.”

The Northern Echo: HMS ProtectorThe Northern Echo: HMS Protector

The Northern Echo: HMS Protector

HMS Protector (Image: Press release)

The five ships are offshore patrol vessels, designed to be deployed globally and to carry out duties including humanitarian support, maritime defence and anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and anti-smuggling measures - tasks that had previously been conducted by frigates and destroyers.

At  90 metres long - roughly the length of two Olympic-size swimming pools - they are equipped with a 30mm cannon and flight deck capable of accommodating 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 guardship in 2019, Medway was deployed as the long-term Atlantic Patrol Task (North) ship in the Caribbean in 2020 and Trent was deployed to the Mediterranean in 2020 and is now permanently based in Gibraltar.

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

The Northern Echo: A Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessel of the kind UK Docks will service.The Northern Echo: A Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessel of the kind UK Docks will service.

The Northern Echo: A Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessel of the kind UK Docks will service.

A Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessel of the kind UK Docks will service. (Image: Press release)

Jonathan Wilson explained: “Because of their long-term deployment overseas, it means UK Docks’ staff will be doing a lot of travelling abroad to carry out inspections and oversee maintenance, updates and improvements.

“It’s a logistically demanding job but once that we are very much capable of as a team and which we are very much looking forward to beginning.