The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salmán, visited Spain last week. He was received by the King and Queen, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and Defence Minister , María Dolores de Cospedal. He signed a collaboration agreement with the latter, paving the way to closing a contract for the construction of five corvettes.
Navantia said it will build the five corvettes Avante 2200 in its shipyards in Ferrol and Cadiz. It has been negotiating the contract since 2015 and it will provide nearly 6,000 direct and indirect jobs annually over the next five years. The operation is worth some 2 billion euros.
Under the terms of the agreement reached between Navantia and the Saudi state-owned firm Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), both companies have taken on a commitment to form a joint venture in Saudi Arabia. This will supply and integrate the combat systems for future contracts for naval programmes in the Arab country.
Navantia chairman, Esteban García Vilasánchez, assured that the construction of the five corvettes will have “a big impact on the economy and on employment.” Over 1,100 of the around 6,000 jobs created annually will be direct, with more than 1,800 corresponding to jobs in the IIAA of Navantia and over 3,000 will be indirect jobs generated by other suppliers.
The contract with Saudi Arabia is the biggest obtained abroad by the state-owned shipbuilder to date. And its strategic characterisics consolidates the company’s international position, especially in the Middle East.
Navantia is in fact waiting for other even more important international contracts, like those in Australia, Canada, India or the United States.
Specifically, the contract in Australia would represent an international milestone for Spain. It will be revealed in May which of the three competing consortia will build the 9 F-5000 frigates for Australia. The contract is worth 22.5 billion euros and is the biggest ever opportunity for a Spanish company abroad.
But the contract with Saudi Arabia has not been free of controversy. The chairman of Navantia Ferrol’s works council, Javier Galán, has had to refute the criticisms from IU with regards the signing of the contract. They accused Rajoy’s government of being “an accomplice” in the war in Yemen. “We can’t look at what country we are building the corvettes for,” said Galan.