RNAD Coulport has provided support to the UK’s nuclear deterrent for over 40 years, delivering safe and secure support to both the Polaris and Trident Strategic Weapon Systems. In 2008 the MOD started looking at a range of options to ensure that the work of Coulport, and associated work at the SWSB, can continue to be carried out effectively in the long term, and in May 2011 we decided that the most effective way to sustain the workforce in the future was to use an experienced supplier within the private sector.
Following the conclusion of our commercial negotiations, we have signed a 15-year contract to outsource elements of support at Coulport and the SWSB. The contract is with an industrial alliance of contractors: AWE plc, Babcock and Lockheed Martin UK Strategic Systems (LMUKSS), known collectively as the ABL Alliance, under a prime and strategic sub-contractor arrangement, with AWE plc in the role of prime contractor. This will ensure that the highly skilled workforce at Coulport and in the SWSB can be maintained in the long term, delivering vital support to the Trident system.
All three contractors have extensive experience of supporting the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent, gained over many years: AWE plc has successfully run the Atomic Weapons Establishment under Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) arrangements since 2000, so this new arrangement is a natural extension of their current role in supporting the nuclear warhead carried by our Trident missiles. In addition, Babcock carries out all our major submarine maintenance at Devonport Dockyard, and already plays a major role in submarine support at HM Naval Base Clyde; and LMUKSS is part of the consortium that owns AWE plc, and has an existing role in providing Strategic Weapon System support in the SWSB and at Coulport. With their impressive track records, I am confident that these companies have the knowledge and experience to operate Coulport and the SWSB to the high standards we expect, and will build on the skills of the existing workforce.
Under these arrangements 149 MOD civilian posts will transfer to ABL Alliance under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) Regulations (2006). The staff transferring are specialist SWS industrial and technical grades, warehousing operatives, logistic support services, supervisors and managers. In addition, 39 Royal Navy posts will be seconded to the alliance. The Department has already engaged extensively with the relevant Trade Unions, and this will continue as the formal TUPE consultation process now takes place. Subject to the successful completion of this further consultation, and on conclusion of a six-month transition phase, Vesting Day will take place, which will mark the formal start of the new arrangement. This is currently scheduled for January 2013.
HM Naval Base Clyde has an excellent safety record and we are determined to maintain the highest standards of safety. The MOD will continue to own the Naval Base sites, including Coulport, and Naval Base Commander Clyde will retain overall responsibility for security and for the activities carried out at Coulport and the SWSB. The site will also continue to be a MOD Nuclear Authorised site, so will be subject to regulation by the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator, the Office of Nuclear Regulation and other regulatory bodies.