Buying ships shouldn't be such a big deal if you've a legacy of being one of the great naval nations of the world; you'd have had experience of buying ships to cope with the ice of the Antarctic and the dealing with the Pirates of the Caribbean. Therefore, for many it will have come as a surprise that £1bn of warships are breaking down in the Gulf since the water is too warm, leaving crews vulnerable!!!
The contractors claim the MOD didn't tell them about that particular potential usage, even though the UK has been engaged in flighting there since 1990, if I am correct, and in truth we could go back centuries. Have the MOD locked themselves into a strategy which requires a portfolio of ships which can only be used in restricted climates? If that was the case, the old news stories of warships being redeployed from various parts of the globe to potential conflict areas will be no more, for the simple reason they wouldn't work.
Setting that aside, now it looks as if a refit of these particular Destroyers will be necessary.
I assume the courts will have to decide who picks up the cost but already it looks as though the contractor is trying to escape liability by resorting to the technical specification set out by the MOD - in other words Rolls Royce complied with the letter of the specification so it's not their fault:
Are the conditions experienced in the Gulf in line with that specification? No, they’re not. So the equipment is having to operate in far more arduous conditions than were initially required (Tomas Leahy of Rolls Royce).
I assume we will hear eventually if the MOD used a solely technical specification, but this must serve as a warning to all those who do that using a solely technical specification shifts the burden of functionality to the buyer. To me there will always be a basic need for technical specifications but they need to be accompanied with functional and performance specifications; and when a service is involved, outcome specifications. It certainly looks, at face value, as if the MOD set aside the functional and performance aspects, and, if that is the case, why?
But there's another question here, what about all the talk of supplier partnerships and innovation transfer - was that a one-way street from the MOD to the market without reciprocation? The relationship between the MOD and its strategic partners now looks as if it has suffered a major set-back and will take some time to recover.
To me there is one lesson for all procurement professionals here: never resort solely to a tec spec.