A&P Falmouth will soon be gearing up for a major Ministry of Defence contract to service the four long-awaited RFA tankers being built in the Far East.

The arrival early next year of RFA Tidespring from the builder’s yard Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) in South Korea will herald the start of an intensive programme to prepare the ships for entry into service with the fleet.

In what will be the largest MoD contract since the Second World War, WWII the port will see the four new MarsARS (military afloat reach and sustainability) tankers call here for military customisation in a programme that will run from early 2017 until mid 2018.

Contractors, technicians and MoD personnel will regularly visit the ships which will boost hotel and B&B occupancy in the town with spin-offs for other businesses. MoD work accounts for 40 per cent of A&P Falmouth’s workload. Therefore with commercial shipping contracts as well the yard is looking forward to a buoyant 2017.

Preparations and planning for the arrival of the RFA tankers has been under way for many months at the yard. The County crane is being dismantled, as this wharf will be one of the wharves used to berth the new tankers. Mobile cranage will in future service the jetty which, with the removal of the current crane, will free-up much needed workspace.

The MoD was put under pressure this summer to explain why the first tanker is almost a year behind schedule. An MoD spokesperson said: “We remain confident of delivering the MARS Tanker project within the original approved budget and expect all four tankers to be in service by 2018 as planned.”

“As with all major projects, timelines are regularly reviewed and the nature of this contract means the MoD is protected from any unplanned cost increases.”

And more work could be in the pipeline for the future. Sir John Parker, one-time boss of Harland and Wolff, a naval architect and leading industrialist was appointed by the Government to make a report on the national shipbuilding strategy.

The report is expected to be published within the next fortnight and industry sources claim that Parker will recommend that yards such as Cammell Laird, Appledore in Devon and the A&P Group with yards at Falmouth, Tyne and Tees should be given more warship work especially on the next generation frigates the Type 31’s which will come into service after the Type 26 frigates.

Instead of concentrating warship building on the Clyde, Parker looks set to advise that other UK yards in the UK should get a shareslice of the cake. With two more ‘solid supports ships’ due to be built all eyes will be on the MoD to see if they are UK built.