HMS Magpie. Pic: EP Barrus

Boost for Bicester engineering firm with MOD small-boats contract 

 2 mins | By Karen David
 | Government | Recruitment | Manufacturing | Jun 19th 2020

A £26.7 million contract for outboard and inboard motors fitted to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) small boats fleet has been awarded to engineering firm EP Barrus. The Bicester-based firm will supply and maintain the engines for more than 1,100 craft over the next seven years, bringing a boost to career opportunities for engineers at the firm.

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EP Barrus claims the new contract will support 40 jobs within its Bicester engineering facility, and around 80 more will be generated across the UK supply chain. The firm also points out that the work involved in the coming years will secure future roles for engineering students enrolled in the company’s graduate engineering programme. Since 2003, EP Barrus has offered one-year, paid work experience placements and apprenticeships to young engineers, and many return to the firm to pursue long term careers.

David Etherington-Smith joined EP Barrus on a university placement in 2003 and is now Sales Manager for custom-built engines for military and commercial uses

The contract covers support to the MOD’s in-service fleet for craft under 25m, including rigid inflatable boats (RIB’s), the Mexeflote landing-raft system, workboats, and planned future craft. EP Barrus will also supply Mariner mine hunting outboard engines and SOLAS (safety of life at sea)-certified engines.

James Melia, project manager for the MOD’s DE&S (defence, equipment and support) boats team, said, “We are committed to ensuring that engines are effectively managed through every stage of their life cycle and our partnership with EP Barrus will provide critical support to this. DE&S is proud to maintain excellent working relationships with EP Barrus, a valued industry supplier and we look forward to continuing to work together to support our front line with the equipment they need while also maintaining vital British skills and jobs.”

EP Barrus chairman Robert Glen commented: “Our research and development team work closely with the MOD to understand their specific requirements, and, utilising the latest technological advancements, deliver engineering solutions that match the demanding operating conditions of their in-service craft.”

The firm’s relationship with the MOD spans 75-years. Its first post-immersion restart engines (PIRS), which drains water from the engine, allowing it to be rapidly restarted following submersion, were introduced to the MOD in the late 1970’s. EP Barrus has since developed derivatives of PIRS-patented technologies, including more simple and cost-effective versions, and a four-stroke adaptation.

The EP Barrus engineering facility. Pic supplied

Defence minister, Jeremy Quin, said, “Our maritime industry continues to grow from strength to strength. This contract will secure an essential capability for our armed forces and support over 40 quality engineering jobs in Bicester, plus many more throughout the UK.”


This article was corrected on 23 June 2020 to remove reference to the firm moving to a 16-acre site in Bicester.

About the Author

Karen David

Karen has a long career in writing and communications in technology, finance and creative sectors in Oxfordshire, the UK and internationally.

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