Defence secretary launches National Shipbuilding Office

Rear Admiral Rex Cox will lead body created to promote UK’s maritime engineering enterprise
Defence secretary Ben Wallace Credit: PA

By Jim Dunton

14 Sep 2021

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has formally launched the new National Shipbuilding Office, which is tasked with driving forward a renaissance in marine engineering and particularly the construction of new vessels.

In an announcement timed to coincide with London’s International Shipping Week, Wallace – who is also the government’s “shipbuilding tsar” – said Rear Admiral Rex Cox had been appointed as chief executive of the new office.

Cox has more than 30 years of Royal Navy experience and most recently served as head of capability planning in the Ministry of Defence’s finance and military capability directorate. Before that, he was HM Treasury’s defence policy adviser from 2015-2018.

Wallace said that the National Shipbuilding Office had been created to “galvanise and promote” shipbuilding enterprise in the UK, and would work in close collaboration with industrial partners in the sector – which currently supports around 44,000 jobs.

“The creation of the National Shipbuilding Office and the appointment of Rear Admiral Rex Cox marks a further demonstration of this government’s ambition to supercharge the UK’s shipbuilding industry across all four corners of the UK,” he said.

“The newly formed office will be the strategic centre that drives transformative change across the shipbuilding industry and wider maritime sector and supply chains.”

The MoD said the shipbuilding industry was “integral” to the future of defence and the Royal Navy.  The department said it was investing £1.7bn in the sector over the next four years.

The National Shipbuilding Office will report directly to Wallace in his role of shipbuilding tsar and will oversee all of the UK government’s interests in UK shipbuilding, from coordinating the long-term pipeline of government vessels to ensuring skills priorities are aligned across the enterprise.

A National Shipbuilding Strategy is due to be published later this year. The MoD said the strategy would cover skills, exports, and technology – particularly the opportunities associated with clean maritime technology.

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