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Britain looks to restore ship-building industry with new frigates

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By Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will announce on Thursday the preferred bidder for the design of the new Type 31 frigate, the government said, as it looks to rebuild its once-mighty shipbuilding industry.

Babcock <BAB.L>, BAE Systems <BAES.L> and Atlas Elektronik UK have all submitted designs for the frigate.

They will be built in Britain and the government will buy at least five, with the first set to be in the water by 2023.

“(The) UK is an outward-looking island nation, and we need a shipbuilding industry and Royal Navy that reflect the importance of the seas to our security and prosperity,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

“I am convinced that by working together we will see a renaissance in this industry which is so much part of our island story – so let’s bring shipbuilding home.”

The programme will support over 2,500 jobs across the UK, including its supply chain, with all the different parts of the frigates being assembled and built at British shipyards.

The government has committed to keeping up a fleet of at least 19 frigates and destroyers with the aiming of growing the fleet in the 2030s. The Type 31 programme will replace Type 23 frigates.

Britain is building patrol vessels and new Type 26 frigates at BAE Systems’ Govan shipyard on the Clyde river in Glasgow.

But the country’s shipbuilding industry has suffered a catastrophic decline in the last 40 years, with shipyards in places from Sunderland to Portsmouth closing.

Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the Titanic was built, went into administration last month.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison)