UK defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon came to Port Glasgow yesterday scouting out Ferguson’s for a possible share of a £1.25 billion Royal Navy contract.

Last month, Sir Michael announced that five new frigates would be built by 2023 as he unveiled a new national shipbuilding strategy aimed at spreading construction work across Britain’s shipyards.

The defence secretary specifically mentioned Ferguson Marine as a contender for some of the work and yesterday he had a tour around the redeveloped Newark site.

Sir Michael said: “With our cutting-edge Type 26 frigates already being built on the Clyde, I know Scottish skilled engineers will relish the chance to compete to build a brand new class of warships for the growing Royal Navy.

“We want to make the most of the renaissance in UK shipbuilding, delivering the latest ships that will help protect our nation and our interests across the world.”

Five new Type 31e class frigates are to be built over the next six years capped at a cost of £250 million each.

Ferguson’s is on the Ministry of Defence ‘roster’ for Royal Navy work and new chief executive Gerry Marshall attended the launch of the Type 31 programme last month.

Inverclyde MP Ronnie Cowan has also made the case for the Port yard at Westminster and spoke with senior government figures, including the minister for defence procurement, Harriet Baldwin MP.

The defence secretary has committed to visiting all of the UK’s major shipyards as part of the Type 31e programme and yesterday was Ferguson’s turn.

Earlier in the day his wife, Lady Wendy Fallon, was at BAE Systems’ in Scotstoun to formally name the second offshore patrol vessel constructed there, HMS Medway.

MoD officials have said Ferguson’s has the opportunity to compete for the Type 31e work.

One of the proposals being considered is to build the frigates in blocks around the country before assembling them at a central hub.

Earlier this week concerns were raised that smaller sites across the UK will not benefit from the Type 31e programme after BAE confirmed a joint bid for the work with Cammell Laird in Merseyside, one of the largest shipbuilders in the country.

Bidding for the work is expected to start next year with construction due to begin in 2019.

Speaking last month, Sir Michael said it was a ‘huge opportunity’ for the country’s shipyards and specifically mentioned Ferguson’s.

He said: “Govan can compete for that, so can Ferguson’s further down the Clyde, they could be built at Rosyth.

“Any of the yards in Britain will be free to compete.”