Grave concerns have been raised over the future of Appledore Shipyard after the government’s decision to suspend bidding on frigate warships.

GMB, the union for shipbuilders, had criticised the government’s ’further blow to shipbuilding’ when the MoD announced on Wednesday it was pausing bidding for type 31e Frigates.

Appledore Shipyard has recently completed its fourth Irish Naval Patrol Vessel, LÉ Bernard Shaw, meaning most of the workforce has been redeployed to Babcock’s Devonport Dockyard.

This means many of the highly-skilled workforce are now facing four-hour round trips by coach from Appledore to Devonport.

GMB said some workers had found temporary accomodation in Plymouth, but while Babcock looks for new contracts, it leaves the future of Appledore Shipyard on a knife-edge.

LÉ George Bernard Shaw has now been completed.LÉ George Bernard Shaw has now been completed.

The MoD claims the pause in bidding was necessary after it had been forced to rethink the acquisition strategy for its Type 31e general-purpose frigate programme after abruptly terminating the original process.

It citied insufficient compliant bids for an effective and robust competition as the major reason.

GMB said Appledore is an integral part of Babcock’s Arrowhead bid for the T31e work, but with the in-service target of 2023 now in serious doubt, there is considerable concern over how long Appledore can wait for new work, whilst the buses go up and down to Plymouth.

Matt Roberts, local GMB regional organiser, said: “Whilst the GMB alongside other unions will do everything we can to work with the company to keep Appledore open, the government needs to stop playing with people’s jobs.

Appledore Shipyard.Appledore Shipyard.

READ MORE: MP allays fears over Appledore Shipyard’s future

“We call on Mr Cox as a cabinet minister to throw his weight behind getting this back on track and raise this directly with Theresa May.

“The effects on the Bideford and North Devon community if Appledore closes would be devastating.

“There are simply not the jobs in North Devon for these skilled workers to move into.

“We need to secure work for the site before it’s too late. Appledore has built 197 ships, and we need to ensure the 197th is not the last.”

John Phillips, GMB regional secretary for Wales and South West, said: “Whilst GMB and other trade unions continue to work closely with Babcock, the government has just ramped up the uncertainty over these crucial British advanced manufacturing jobs in North Devon.

“Appledore is a fantastic facility and has shown with the hugely successful Irish OPV work that they can compete on quality and price with anywhere in the world, producing a credible defence export product.

“Following the government’s decision to put the new Fleet Sold Support (RFA) ships out to international tender, this is a further blow to British shipbuilding.

“The government likes to talk this process up as a renaissance for shipbuilding, in reality it’s more of a dark age.”

The GMB is also calling on local MP and the recently appointed Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC MP to throw his weight behind getting the T31e process back on track.

The Gazette has contacted Mr Cox and shipyard operators Babcock Marine for comment.