Well-known shipyard and engineering service provider Cammell Laird has begun a £47 million refit of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Victoria, Britain’s number one vessel in anti-piracy operations off Somalia.
The massive refit will be the biggest ever undertaken by the Merseyside-based yard since it began its 25-year through life support ‘cluster’ contract to maintain nine of the 13 ships in the RFA flotilla in 2008. The contract was renewed for a further five years from 2013 based on key performance indicators and value for money.
The RFA Fort Victoria is one of the largest vessels operated by the British Ministry of Defence and has just completed three years of active service where she has been Britain’s number one pirate catcher on operations off the coast of Somalia as well as supporting the Royal Navy in traditional roles.
Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Phillip Dunne said: “This £47m contract is a boost for Merseyside and I am delighted that this vital refit will provide on-going work for 200 highly skilled workers at the shipyard in Birkenhead. RFA Fort Victoria has been at the forefront of military operations for most of her life and this refit will reinvigorate her for future operations.”
Cammell Laird Chief Executive John Syvret CBE said the company was absolutely delighted to welcome the Fort Victoria to Merseyside.
“This is a very big moment in the history of the cluster contract to begin a refit of this size, complexity and magnitude,” he said. “The entire company is relishing the prospect of starting such an important contract. We will be deploying all the lessons we have learnt, and all the understanding we have developed of this vessel, over the last six years to ensure the refit delivers the best possible results for the RFA and MOD.”
Cammell Laird Managing Director Linton Roberts said the company has worked “enormously hard” with the RFA since 2008 to develop a keen understanding of how best to work together in collaboration.
“This approach ensures the cluster contract is focused on delivering the best value for money and the optimum level of ship availability. The Cammell Laird team has come to know the RFA Fort Victoria extremely well over the years and at the end of 2012 we undertook a refit of the vessel ‘in theatre’ in Dubai, which followed the refit in 2009 at Cammell Laird. This background gives us extensive experience, expertise and knowledge of the vessel.”
Cammell Laird Project Director Spencer Atkinson, who will be leading the refit for Cammell Laird, said it would be one of the most detailed ever undertaken by the yard employing 200 skilled workers plus sub-contractors over nearly a year.
“A huge amount of work has already gone into preparing for this refit such as the pre-manufacturing of pipe work, steel work and ordering long lead equipment as well as extensive planning,” he said. “The Victoria is very well known to us and we have an in depth understanding of the vessel. I have been leading work on her going back to 2004 pre cluster, when we were undertaking regular assisted maintenance periods (AMPs), around the UK, right up to more recent years when we have undertaken major refits under the cluster contract. The experience gained over years on the Fort Victoria helps the whole team very much, saving time and money on specifications and jobs. The workforce know the Fort Victoria inside out. That knowledge, and that familiarity with her, means they immediately know what to do in many instances because they have undertaken the work before. The team really is bringing specialist skills to this refit that could only have been developed by working on the Fort Victoria for many years.
“The main jobs on this contract will include an accommodation uplift, the replacement of six diesel generators, with complete new fuel, Lub oil, salt water and fresh water systems and new pumps . In addition we are overhauling the engine and main propulsion systems and steering systems. Another big job will be the installation of two ballast water treatment plants using the latest environmentally friendly technology and know how. Elsewhere we are replacing two sewage treatment plants, installing new Reverse Osmosis Plants, a new incinerator and upgrading all crane ammunition handling equipment.
“We are also replacing the fire detection system throughout the vessel and installing a new local fire suppression system on the main engines and generators. All the weapons and weapon systems will also be overhauled. Meanwhile extensive general dry-docking works will be undertaken including painting and blasting of tanks and the underwater hull and painting the superstructure, including all her decks”
Defence Equipment & Support, Royal Fleet Auxiliary Chief Technical Superintendent, Captain Ian Schumacher, said: “RFA Fort Victoria has been at the forefront of military operations for most of her life and is in need of some tender loving care to re-invigorate her for future adventures. This challenging project will require significant effort from the joint MOD and Cammell Laird teams in order to refit and deliver this complex platform.
“I look forward to accepting RFA Fort Victoria back into service at the end of this year refreshed, invigorated and enhanced to meet the future operational challenges that await.”