Words – Linsay Keough
Pics – Stuart Maxwell
As H.M.S Duncan slipped into the Clyde, the unanswered question on everyone’s lips was: ‘How many more happy days will there be for the workforce at the BAE yard?’
As the expectant throng filed down Govan Road to the yard, a shop along the way still had the funeral tribute poster to Jimmy Reid displayed in the window. There was a feeling that as many had come to pay their respects as had come to wave off the Duncan.
The Duncan is the sixth and final Type 45 Anti-Air Warfare destroyer built for the Royal Navy at the BAE Govan shipyard.
Named after Admiral Viscount Adam Duncan, who defeated the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Camperdown, it’s fitting that HMS Duncan was launched on the 213th anniversary of that battle.
And while Defence cuts loom over shipbuilding that made the Clyde so famous, Alan Johnston, Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Surface Ships division claimed: ‘Workforce morale is very good, despite constant speculation. They realise that there are economic considerations to be made.’
Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, added: ‘I wish I could end this period of uncertainty for everyone today, but we will all have to wait a couple of weeks. All I can say is that the Royal Navy will need frigates in the future.’
Among the former soldiers and sailors in the crowd, throngs of schoolchildren had come from across the city and beyond, to see Mrs Marie Ibbotson, wife of Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson, Deputy Commander of the Fleet, send Duncan down the slipway.
This is the last time this 200 year-old traditional launch will take place. It is almost certain future building will be in dry docks or on rafts.
Evan Robertson, 5, of Craigend said: ‘The best bit was seeing the big boat going into the water.’
Clyde shipbuilding could be a beneficiary of BAE’s four-year, £127m contract from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to develop a new generation of warships for the Royal Navy.
The Type 26 frigate line would replace the Type 22 and Type 23 vessels. While the contract team will be based at Bristol in Avon, BAE yards including those on the Clyde and at Portsmouth could be in line to build the ships when construction begins in earnest.
While the development contract will go ahead, the Type 26 series of warships will face the hurdle of a defence spending review.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth told Parliament: ‘It is our duty to provide key equipment that will ensure the UK is properly prepared to meet its own defence needs in an ever changing world, and continue to play an important role in maintaining global security.
‘Programmes like the Type 26 not only ensure the Royal Navy continues to have cutting edge capability but also sustains the industry that supports them. The commitments the MoD has made will protect skills and employment, and preserve the industrial capability needed to carry out future programmes efficiently, in a way that represents value for money.’
The contract team consists of 80 people and that will rise to around 300 over the life of the contract. The four years of work and the team’s findings will also reflect the findings of the government’s defence spending review.
BAE at Govan and Scotstoun is nearing the end of its programme to build a fleet of Type-45 destroyers. Work is also proceeding at Govan on the build for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, which should enter service between 2016 and 2018.