Ben Wallace has confirmed £100m of improvements to Belfast's dockyards on his first visit to the city in his role as UK Defence Secretary.
A £1.6bn contract to build three Royal Navy support ships will see shipbuilding return to Belfast, with Team Resolute – made up of BMT, Harland & Wolff and Navantia UK – winning the contract to build the new Fleet Solid Support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
It was also Chris Heaton-Harris' first visit to the city in his role as Northern Ireland Secretary as the shipbuilding boost was confirmed.
The vessels will provide munitions, stores and provisions to ships across the Royal Navy's fleet – from aircraft carriers to frigates.
They will be the first vessels build by Harland and Wolff in Belfast since 2002, with the majority of the blocks and modules for the ships to be constructed in Belfast and Appledore after entirely British design at BMT.
Part of the ships' construction will also be carried out at Navantia's shipyard in Cadiz, Spain, before the 216-metre ships are assembled in Belfast.
The three support ships, expected to be operational by 2032, are essential to the Carrier-led Maritime Strike Group and will be the UK’s second longest vessels – behind the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
Production is set to start in 2025, whilst improvements to the dockyards will start immediately.
Ben Wallace said the contract was "a significant boost to the UK's historic shipbuilding industry, balancing shipbuilding across the Union".
"Creating jobs and prosperity, Team Resolute is bringing shipbuilding back to Belfast, developing a modern, resilient and thriving shipbuilding industry that will support naval and commercial shipbuilding into the future," he said.
The contract will also see 1,200 shipyard jobs created, with 900 in Northern Ireland's capital alone, and £100m invested into the UK shipbuilding industry, according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
This will include £77m of infrastructure at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast and Appledore shipyards, and an additional £21m in skills and technology transfer from Navantia UK.
On behalf of Team Resolute, John Wood, Group CEO of Harland & Wolff, said the contract is "springboarding Harland & Wolff back into the naval shipbuilding sphere".
"This is the last chance to capture the excellent shipbuilding skills that remain in Belfast and Appledore before they are lost and pass them on to the next generation of UK shipbuilders," he said.
"UK Government has seized this opportunity and in doing so ensured the long-term survival of our shipyards and significantly bolstered sovereign shipbuilding capability."
The contract will also aim to deliver 200 further education opportunities on graduate placements and apprentice programmes.
Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Heaton-Harris said it was "fantastic news for Northern Ireland and the UK shipbuilding industry".
"Harland and Wolff is iconic worldwide for its shipbuilding history, and the creation of hundreds of jobs through this contract as well as training opportunities will ensure that Belfast remains a key player in the shipbuilding industry of the future."