RFA Fort Victoria, one of the largest vessels operated by the UK Ministry of Defence, has put to sea following the completion of a £44 million refit by Cammell Laird.

The year-long programme of work, represented phase two of RFA Fort Victoria’s life extension programme to keep her in service until 2025.

Dubbed ‘Britain’s number one pirate catcher’ after playing a key role in numerous counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, the ship has rejoined the UK’s surface fleet, ready to support task group operations alongside aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

According to the firm:

“The latest upkeep work followed the first refit phase carried out by Cammell Laird in 2014. It was completed under the Through-Life Support contract held by the Birkenhead shipyard since 2008. Key projects included adapting the vessel’s cargo tanks to comply with environmental regulations, and adding the capability to re-supply Britain’s new aircraft carriers with provisions while at sea.” 

RFA Fort Victoria at Cammell Laird shipyard Birkenhead.

Cammell Laird project director Spencer Atkinson led both the upkeep projects for the Merseyside shipyard, the two biggest refits the RFA has ever undertaken. He said the work represented ‘a monumental achievement’ considering the timescale involved.

“We had up to 400 Cammell Laird staff working on RFA Fort Victoria at one point, including upwards of 20 apprentices across all trades. Added to that, there were perhaps another 250 to 300 subcontractors.  It wasn’t possible to complete phase one and two together as the ship would have been out of service for too long, and quite simply, she’s needed around the world.  

The 2014 refurbishment was carried out in such a way that she could sail and be operational, and then come back for the second phase at a later date. For the past 10 years, during the lifetime of the Through-Life Support contract, Cammell Laird has been responsible for all maintenance activity on board the ship – major and minor, in the UK and abroad. Everyone in the workforce knows Fort Victoria inside out and it’s that learning from experience that saved a lot of time and ultimately ensured value for money for the UK taxpayer.

The completion of this latest refit will deliver increased operational availability as Fort Victoria is now not only equipped to supply Britain’s new aircraft carriers but can safely navigate environmentally-protected waters in line with the latest marine regulations.  In addition, the success and ongoing high performance of Fort Victoria continues to provide valuable lessons for Fleet Solid Support. We’ve completed the project within the agreed timescale and budget, and I’m exceptionally proud of what the Cammell Laird team and our key subcontractors, Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), and RFA ship staff have achieved.”

Critical tasks included upgrading the ship from a single to a double-hull tanker by adapting its centre cargo tanks to comply with International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) anti-pollution regulations.

Once in dry dock, holes were cut in the side of the ship and 180 tonnes of steel used to enlarge its double bottom margin, reducing the possibility of a leak if the outer hull is breached. To avoid the expense of removing the ship’s port and starboard wing cargo tanks they were converted to hold ballast water.

Routine upkeep and refurbishment work was also undertaken during the year, including overhauls of the main engines and generators, classification society surveys and inspections, hull surveys, special surveys, and an overhaul of ancillary and auxiliary equipment.

53
Leave a Reply

avatar
11 Comment threads
42 Thread replies
20 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
19 Comment authors
RudeboyDaniele MandelliCamLustyLee1 Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Brom
Guest
Brom

£44m for an extension of 6 years? Is that for both parts of the refit. I’m not sure we’re getting absolute value out of this one

Rudeboy
Guest
Rudeboy

She couldn’t legally operate without the works being completed. With FSS not ordered yet there wasn’t really any choice. The 2 other Forts are really, really old now.

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

Extensive refit, when you also factor in all the other changes made too – rewired, re-plumbed, rigs upgraded, bridge refresh, improved crew areas, new launchers for the Pacific boats etc.

It’s still a shame her sister ship was scrapped a few years ago.

Navy Lookout has some fantastic pictures of Fort Vic operating with Tidesurge and Tideforce if anyone’s interested.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Agree Lusty. To think they were once to be six and fitted with VL Seawolf to operate in support of ASW groups in the Atlantic and GIUK Gap.

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

That would have been a sight to see. The new Solid Support Ship concept does replace the current fleet like for like, agreeably offering a massive capability leap over what we have – particularly the two older ships. Indeed, one overlooked fact is that both the proposed ships and the Tide class are designed to directly support the carriers with the location of their rigs – meaning that in practice, a QE could be resupplied simultaneously by a Tide and SSS. Yet with many defence procurement schemes, it conveniently forgets we had four support ships not too long ago. Much… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

One of the worst SDSR 2010 cuts, along with the 4th Bay.

Illogical. Short sighted. And desperate.

We’ve lamented the RFA numbers before haven’t we. Tides are replacing Rovers, Leafs, O’s, 2 FSS will replace 4 Forts.

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

Agreed. And yes, I recall we have. I’m optimistic we will receive three FSS, I mean, one can hope. My ‘modest’ RFA plans would be for a further batch of two Tides, to work alongside the four Tides and two Rovers. Add to that two merchant conversions for ‘bulk’ tankers to give a fleet of ten (and subsequently, bring this aspect of the RFA back ‘in house’). Add to that a fleet of four FSS, a dedicated forward repair ship from BMT, aviation training ship, four transport docks and at least one hospital ship, we would have a largely rejuvenated… Read more »

Helions
Guest
Helions

The USN is also at a crossroads IRT its logistics fleet as well Lusty.

https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/sustaining-the-fight-resilient-maritime-logistics-for-a-new-era/publication

We’d better get our act together and quickly.

Cheers

Nick C
Guest
Nick C

I am not up to speed with RFA numbers, can someone fill me in as to what is operational besides the four new Tides? And also which ships are now in reserve. I understand that there may be a question mark over Wave Knight and Wave Ruler, but aren’t they relatively young ships?

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

Current numbers: 12 + 1 on trials.

From memory:

Laid up: Wave Ruler, Fort Rosalie, Fort Austin.
Active: Wave Knight, Tiderace, Cardigan Bay, Mounts Bay, Lyme Bay.
Work Up: Argus, Fort Victoria, Tidesurge
Work Up/Trials (yet to be commissioned): Tideforce
Undergoing refit: Tidespring

Wave class are young, commissioned in 2003. here were questions over their future, but they appear to be safe. Alas, one is laid up.

Nick C
Guest
Nick C

Thanks Lusty

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

You’re very welcome.

Simon
Guest
Simon

I’ve often wondered if actually we just got rid of all Swan Hunter ships? I get the impression they may have been cutting corners??

PS: When I say “all” I mean ships of the problem 80s/90s. Perhaps they just bit off more than they could chew???

Rudeboy
Guest
Rudeboy

I think that suspicion might be reasonable….
By all accounts Fort George was in a poor material state when she was removed from service. That may have been due to a lack of maintenance and being worked hard, but it may have also pointed to some other issues.

Cam
Guest
Cam

Let’s hope we get 3 FSS

DaveyB
Guest
DaveyB

Didn’t realise that she was once a target for the IRA when she was being built at Harland & Wolf. Luckily the yards engineers managed to save her from sinking after the bomb went off.

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

Yes, fantastic work by the yard to save her. It’s fortunate that the second device didn’t go off and even more fortunate that there were no deaths or injuries.

Bruce Palmer
Guest
Bruce Palmer

Why couldn’t her sister ship have had the double bottom installed then? The MOD scrapped her, and at the time said the reason was that she could not be adapted!

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Interesting that at 13.15 so far every comment except the top 3 comments has been given a minus vote.

Hello Troll!!

Alan Garner
Guest
Alan Garner

I don’t see a downvote option so how does that even work?

Lee1
Guest
Lee1

The down vote button is invisible. It is to the right of the number… Not sure why it is invisible. However it does not stop the trolls down voting every comment

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

Oh Yes. I’ve just down voted you just to test it out. Nothing personal. But no minus number came up!!!

Lee1
Guest
Lee1

lol

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

It’s almost like you know someones life isn’t fruitful when they can downvote legitimate comments.

Julian
Guest
Julian

Indeed, although being pedantic I suspect that the top 3 comments also got minus votes from the troll. I think the troll (possibly automated – who knows?) goes through and down-votes every single comment it’s just that the popular comments have enough up-votes to take them back into positive territory or back to zero for comments that only get one up-vote.

Cam
Guest
Cam

Do u know Who’s doing that Daniele? It’s annoying, especially when people leave great comment that are spot on.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

I would not have a clue Cam mate. At the end of the day although it can be irritating hopefully people can either ignore or if it is a genuine disagree post themselves and debate, or correct.

Helions
Guest
Helions

The Forts are the equivalent of the USN’s Supply class AOE fast combat logistics ships. It’s a class of 4 and only 2 are in service since the cuts made by the previous administration to the some of the most requested support vessels by CSG commanders. They’re built to mil spec having previously been USS as opposed to USNS and they’re the only ones that can run with a CSG at battle force speeds. I don’t know why the other two haven’t been put back in service…

https://www.navysite.de/ships/aoe6.htm

Cheers

Mike Saul
Guest
Mike Saul

Off topic slightly, more press reports (FT and DT) that t31e is simply to expensive to meet the MOD target of £250m.

Actual cost including weapons, sensors and computers to be in the region of £400m to £500m.

Cost of a austere t26 is what? £600m to £700m plus lower lifetime costs due to already having an existing t26 fleet.

Someone needs to bite the bullet and ditch t31e.

Paul.P
Guest
Paul.P

Quite. If you are in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging. Austere GP Type 26 is the way to go. In the meantime struggle through with T23 and maybe build some River 3s with telescopic hangars and a 57mm. They will sell easily enough as the T26s come into service.

JohnHartley
Guest
JohnHartley

Well the original target price was £350 million, then cut on a hope/whim to £250m. I always thought the original target was the most realistic.

JohnHartley
Guest
JohnHartley

Going further off topic, have you seen the South African proposal for Pegasus, a VTOL light business jet. I do not know how real this project is, but it might be handy for QE/PoW if it ever became a reality. Transport, AEW, Tanker, EW, recon, etc.

Simon
Guest
Simon

‘Tis pretty odd. T26 and Rivers are the export success. Why then build a T31e for export success?

Paul.P
Guest
Paul.P

Agree. The 4-5000 ton ‘intermediate’ frigate export market is very crowded. By contrast the market for opvs is growing strongly. River 2 / Khareef is a good hull basis for a family of opvs and corvettes. And Type 26 is the one to beat global frigate hull. What’s not to like?

Julian
Guest
Julian

I agree. If the numbers are as you describe and we are within spitting distance of getting to an all T26 frigate fleet then – and I’m bracing myself for a load of down-votes here – if there is no way to accelerate the T26 builds currently underway or do something else to avoid the situation I would even be willing to accept some temporary capability gap (reduction in frigate numbers) if it was only for a handful of years and it meant that we did get back to the 13 x T26 plan. We’d probably also be in a… Read more »

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

Oh dear. I have go off topic with this on another thread. Maybe we need an appropriate topic.

Sleepy
Guest
Sleepy

This is really old news Fort Vic came out of refit last Oct/Nov and she is going back into refit this July to get her certification period into step with the QE.

Oh and the reason the Fort George was scrapped was nothing to do with double hull it was purely a cost saving measure, George was the better of the two ships, but she was scrapped as she was due next into refit!

Levi Goldsteinberg
Guest
Levi Goldsteinberg

Wonderful stuff. The RFA is a true unsung hero of the armed forces

Cam
Guest
Cam

Shame we’ve lost so many RFA ships.

Cam
Guest
Cam

RIP RFA fort George! And now the MOD are actually scrapping the real historic Fort George just down the road! Home to Black watch royal regiment of scotland! I wish they would stop scrapping our millitary sites and ships!

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

I appreciate your sadness Cam, but I’m cool with the closure of Fort George Barracks actually. The place is centuries old and although an impressive sight hardly fit accommodation for a 21st century Infantry Battalion. I’m more concerned with strategic losses. Airbases. Ammunition sites. Hardened facilities like Nuclear Bunkers, C3 sites, Dock facilities, POL facilities, and such. Those should be kept where possible. If Black Watch is at Fort George or up the road at the old RAF Kinloss as long as there is an army “footprint” in the area close to Inverness the defence of the UK has not… Read more »

Cam
Guest
Cam

I see your point Daniele, fort George will make a great place to visit in future when the army’s gone to a more modern abode. I did work there updating all the squadies rooms so maybe a hotel in future.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

I’ve never been there only seen photos of it.

Imposing looking fort.

Cam
Guest
Cam

Has RFA fort George been scrapped? Wouldn’t it make a good littoral strike ship? I’m sure there’s other surplus big RFA ships floating around that we own anyway.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Left service in 2010 mate, I assume it is gone?

The other Forts still active are the original pair, which are smaller – Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie ( which was once called Fort Grange but it sounded too much like George )

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

Sadly it has long since faced the gas axe of a foreign breakers yard.

She was ‘replaced’ in service by one of the older Forts which had been taken out of service, but was recommissioned as part of the 2010 review.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Is that a Phalanx CIWS I spy above the bridge?

Good. I know we’ve done that to death here several times but I would like to see key assets like this fitted as standard.

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

It is, she can carry two…

…but they’re currently not fitted. Nor have any of the Tides received them, and I think only one has its 30mm’s at my last gander.

Fully agree that it’s needed as standard. We’re talking about a critical piece of hardware, a significant chunk of taxpayers money, and more importantly the lives of the crew members.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Where’s buying a few dozen extra Phalanx is chicken feed by comparison to much defence hardware.

Yes seen on other thread she is not carrying CIWS now..grrrr.

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

AAgree that it would be a sensible piece of procurement.

RN/RFA essentially has a pool of ~48 units which are moved around the fleet as an when needed.

If we think about it, the classes and units are as follows:

QE Class: 6
T45: 12
Albion: 4
Bays: 6
Tankers: 12
Forts: 6

So yes, we do have enough to cover the units fitted for it. But it’s largely not fitted as standard, and we’re going to have to procure more for future frigates anyway.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Agree. Nicely charted out too. What is so annoying is this sort of commitment would not break the bank either, but improve the capability of the assets we have.

Considering the MoD’s “£178 billion equipment budget”!

Lusty
Guest
Lusty

Indeed. Of course, the main argument against fitting them is that it would increase the maintenance costs of the vessel. This is true, but I would argue that’s a small price to pay to further secure the safety of the vessel.

Similarly, some would argue that in home waters, it’s not needed. But would the same people argue that a British soldier patrol secure sites without bullets in their magazine or the quick reaction Typhoons launch without armaments? I think not.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

Yes, nicely put. And too true.