WIRRAL shipyard Cammell Laird has secured a multi-million pound contract, safeguarding hundreds of jobs.

The Ministry of Defence has extended its Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) maintenance agreement with the Birkenhead-based company until 2018.

The deal, which is part of a £349m project across five British companies, comes after Cammell Laird first won the contract for the RFA ‘through life support’ in 2008 for five years.

But the latest news has “delighted” bosses at the shipyard and managing director Linton Roberts paid tribute to a “strong partnership” with the MoD.

He said: “A huge amount of effort, energy and dedication has gone into delivering the highest quality maintenance service on RFA vessels since 2008. So we are very pleased to see the work recognized and our contract extended following a 'value for money' review by the Ministry of Defence.

“We have been working closely with the MOD on this contract for nearly five years and have built a very strong partnership. There is greater continuity of support and engineering, with the ships maintenance here in the UK and around the world now being carried out by the same teams.

“This results in more preparation time, more in depth understanding and knowledge of the vessels, better specifications, reduced costs, increased vessel availability and a focus on continuous improvement and innovation.

“2012 alone has seen five major refits conducted at our Birkenhead yard and numerous maintenance periods supported around the world - in places as diverse as the Bahamas, the Falklands, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

"The contract has seen Cammell Laird provide truly 'global reach' support over the past 4 years, with maintenance to RFA vessels carried out on every major continent."

The contract extension, which will secure 400 jobs, will mean Cammell Laird holds responsibility for the maintenance of nine ships of the RFA Flotilla.

The RFA supplies fuel, munitions, food and other vital ship’s stores to the Royal Navy fleet while on operations at sea.

And Cammell Laird chief executive John Syvret said the shipyard would improve “value for money.”

He said: "Based upon the strong foundations we have jointly laid, we look forward to working in partnership with the MOD for another five years to further improve value for money and levels of vessel availability."

Head of commercially supported shipping for defence, equipment and support, Commodore (RFA) David Preston said: “These contracts represent the best value for money for Defence and each of the companies has a proven track record in supporting the Royal Fleet Auxiliary on a worldwide basis – this ability to support the Navy wherever they are deployed is critical to UK Defence.”