Birkenhead shipyard Cammell Laird has helped launch plans for a new £150m disaster relief ship at London International Shipping Week this week.

Britannia Maritime Aid (BMA), the registered charity leading the project, wants the vessel to be built at Cammell Laird and equipped with innovative British technology.

The ship would be permanently based in the Caribbean, tasked with supporting disaster relief efforts and providing specialist training.

The scheme was officially launched at the UK Chamber of Shipping during London International Shipping Week 2019.

Tony Graham, Cammell Laird Chief Operating Officer, said the vessel’s design is a variant of Cammell Laird’s Ro-Pax platform, developed in conjunction with ship designers Leadship and first unveiled at the Nor Shipping trade fair in Oslo this summer.

Rather than being a one-off specialised vessel with limited applications, the first-of-its-kind disaster relief and training ship will have strong, versatile commercial Ro-Pax capability.

Mr Graham said in a news release:

“Cammell Laird is proud to be supporting Britannia Maritime Aid in developing a design & build offer for a UK Aid and Training Ship.

Working closely with the Leadship design house our commercial approach gave Britannia Maritime Aid confidence in their requirement trade-offs, procurement cost estimate and support cost estimate. This technical and cost due diligence underpins the Britannia Maritime Aid business case. Our commercial design ensures great value for money and protects the vessel’s resale value as a cutting-edge Ro-Pax. We have also managed to incorporate and consider advanced technology concepts such as autonomous vehicles to maximise its operational capability and its future relevance.

A British-built ship encourages the British public to feel a sense of ownership of a Britannia Maritime Aid vessel working on their behalf and sailing under the Blue Ensign.”

BMA’s vessel – to be operated by a British company – will include a training centre, landing craft, helicopters, drones, rough terrain vehicles, onboard medical facilities, briefing rooms, conference facilities, workshops and full mission bridge and engine simulators for trainees.

The ship will be able to carry up to 6,000 tonnes of vehicles and aid supplies – more than ten times the capacity of current vessels – including field hospitals, field kitchens, tents, fresh water and fuel for devastated areas.

It will also boost Britain’s disaster relief capabilities and ease the strain of aid operations on the Royal Navy while creating jobs in British shipbuilding and the Merchant Navy.

BMA says the ship’s regular crew will be supplemented by maritime trainees, cadets and apprentices who would gain ship handling, navigation, engineering, boat work and pilotage experience.

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sorry, who’s paying for this?


I believe this project would be reliant on donations (their website has a crowdfunding campaign), but they also hope for MoD/DFID support.


Seems to be perfect for dfid funds


I would expect all of the government funding to come from the foreign aid budget. After 10 years of squandering money they struggled to spend Im surprised it has taken so long for these aid ships to be proposed there should be two or three of them built.


Yes it is perfect for DFID funds, ideas a lot of us have pushed on this website. Ideally DFID also fund a coupe of merlins to go with it and fund navy pilots to fly them.

The proposal has a fundraising page:

Need to have some NHS staff on training and rotation too, and if it is ever needed for a home disaster it is 5 days away from U.K. waters. Think you should have 2 more one for Far East, one for Africa for training and disaster relief and can be requisitioned in times of war too.


No it is a terrible idea for DFID funds, the reality is it would spend most of the time tied up rusting alongside drawing funding away from where it is needed! DFID funding is meant to support sustainable development and eliminate poverty. Barfing it away on sustaining the UK shipbuilding is not a good use of the funds. Likewise what use does DFID have for a couple of Merlins on retainer plus Navy pilots?! Again a waste of development funding. If DFID needs some helicopters to support a development scheme then they will lease them from a civilian contractor on… Read more »


Why would it be sat alongside…. when not committed to disasters it could be used for improving peoples lives in developing nations doing things like cataract ops. Small containerised clinics like we already have for mobile screening of patients could be loaded for different missions. It could also visit UK ports offer a similar services to help local NHS trusts reduce waiting times. And if the UK had a particularly bad outbreak which stretched hospitals it could come home and provide additional capacity and of course if the UK MoD ever had a need it would be pressed into service.


There are better more targeted ways to help support people in developing nations than a White Elephant Disaster relief ship. How many Wells in Africa could be paid for for the money that would be needed for the harbour fees to dock this ship annually? How many reproductive health care clinics could paid for from the money needed to service and maintain this vessel annually? How many tents could be purchased from the annual fuel bill for this vessel? If there is the need for ships or aircraft to support an international disaster there are vessels and planes that can… Read more »

Sid morley

International development budget


Let’s get this built at CL after Attenborough’s done. Would be great.

Daniele Mandelli

Excellent idea.

I assume in due course it will relieve the need for a Bay to be in the region.

Will the RN still be expected to support this? Helicopters, Landing Craft ?


I think the idea is this would provide long term disaster recovery support over weeks/months whereas you might still need Bay for immediate disaster relief in the first few days. Could free it up to leave the region if required though as this could provide ‘cover’.


Good concept, funded by a DFID budget, could we then used the same funding concept for rotary UAV’s to be designed and built in the UK for various disaster relief tasks like S&R or landing supplies.

John Hampson

Posted this 4 days ago, “Said this for years.Use some of the wasted Foreign Aid budget to build a couple of Disaster Releif ships in British yards. Fund running costs from the same budget. Win win all round. People who are in urgent need get help, the UK manufacturing base, jobs and economy get support plus the Navy get access to very useful platforms in a crisis.”

andy reeves

never mind foreign aid what do we get for the godzillions we give to the u.n every year/ let them finance it.


It’s a great idea, but it won’t be built until the mid 2020s. With the work on R.R.S. Sir David Attenborough coming to an end shortly job losses are on the way at Cammell Lairds. With the government determined to give every single last Royal Navy ship, bar none, to Scotland to prevent job losses there, surely the solid support ships and F.L.S.S. have to be given to Cammell Lairds to plug the gap between the Sir David Attenborough and this disaster relief ship and prevent job losses on the Mersey.

David Stirling

Bar none? Need I remind you astute and dreadnought submarines are built in an English yard, Barrow ,or is geography not your strongest subject. Also with the breaking news received today with regards to the type 31e frigates,
they are likely to be block assembled using various shipyards across the U.K. ,as were the two aircraft carriers. Try and have some perspective.


Not just that, but smaller manufacturers in England have been instrumental in building the new fleet of workboats and trialling autonomous vessels.

David Stirling

Would also like to remind people that one of the very latest RN Ships, Hms Magpie was built in Cork, Republic of Ireland. Bar none??????


Oh, a small boat was built in Ireland, that means we should give 100% of R.N./R.F.A. ships to Scotland, David Stirling is right!!!

David Stirling

You said all Royal Navy ships bar none.I never once said all Rn and Rfa ships should be built in Scotland. Wipe the egg off your face.


Yes I did say all R.N. SHIPS bar none. Magpie is a small BOAT (37 tonnes displacement!). Lol! Wipe the egg off your face.

andy reeves

enough ladies please


We are not paying 90% of the cost to build precisely zero R.N./R.F.A. ships. There are more than enough R.N./R.F.A. ships so that at least some can be built in England. Can you honestly not see what we are trying to say here? Giving Scotland every single last R.N./R.F.A. ship, bar none, is totally unfair. If they think we are going to go along with this they need to think again.

We are the ones paying 90% of the cost, we are not the ones they want to be pissing off.


Need I remind you I said ships not submarines? Or is English is not your strongest subject? Also a question requires a question mark. We English pay 90% of the cost. There are only very few submarines. There are dozens upon dozens of ships in the R.N./R.F.A. There are MORE than enough ships for England to build at least some (not a few poxy blocks either). Anyone who thinks Scotland should get every single last R.N.and R.F.A. ship bar none is the one who is being totally unreasonable. Also, F.Y.I., building relatively small ships like the Type 31 in blocks… Read more »


I don’t wish to be sucked into this too much, but I have always thought the success of building RRS Sir David Attenborough should be used as a springboard for Cammell Laird to build replacements for HM ships Scott and Protector. If this proposal comes to fruition, it will of course be of benefit to Cammell Laird and we should remember they they don’t have to just build ships for the RN or RFA, it’s the maintaining of the skillset which is crucial. TVH Patricia is earmarked for replacement, something which should go to a UK yard. Smaller yards like… Read more »


You should allow yourself to be sucked in, the Scottish are not the only ones who are allowed to defend their shipyards! I could just as easy say the Scottish yards don’t just have to build ships for the R.N./R.F.A., let them find something else. The R.N./R.F.A. are the choice cuts, we are not paying 90% of the cost to survive on left overs. Considering that is around how much we pay it is only fair we get some R.N./R.F.A. ships, wouldn’t you say? I think the fairest way is if Scotland is going to be our centre for warship… Read more »


What I meant by my initial comment was that I do not wish to be drawn into a debate between yourself and David in which insults are being banded about. Please, let’s try and keep the debates here civil, as everyone, including yourself raises valid points. To clear up any assumptions: yes, I would love to see an English yard produce warships again, or build new RFA vessels. I think Cammell Laird is best placed for larger ships, but they shouldn’t just limit themselves to naval vessels and so building ships for the civilian market should be welcomed. Cammell Laird… Read more »


Hello Lusty, you’ve been civil and I’ll always be civil back to people who respond to me in such a way. I too would prefer to argue purely the facts but if people use name calling/personal attacks against me first I’ll often respond in the same tone. Honestly though, I’d rather not. I shouldn’t allow myself to get drawn in so easy if the truth be told. Sometimes we all get a bit heated on here, and that’s ok, that’s life in fact! There are plenty of people I learn from on here. Certainly there are no grudges to anyone… Read more »

andy reeves

shut up big nose! just kiddin.

andy reeves

stuff the scots they don’t deserve contracts 4 years to build a river and then some prawn gives them contracts to build frigates which will be obsolete before they’re even built


Lol, I said “is English is not your strongest subject”, how ironic! It is too late to edit it now too, that’ll teach me. You missed a trick there David! Seriously though, no hard feelings.


No worries, Stephen. I do agree with what you say regarding spreading work across the UK. I just hope the FSS order us awarded to a UK yard. Incidentally, CL is doing the T45 engine replacements, so there’s some work in the pipeline for them.

As an aside, you can edit your posts, at least, you can when using a desktop.


A submarine is a boat, by the way …


No sure about this specifically with regard to the design. I want CL to survive but if a disaster relief ship were to be built, especially if government funding played a role in getting it done, I would prefer to see some synergy with planned RFA and/or RN vessels so that in a time of military crisis it could be integrated into defence logistics and called up as an extra asset. I note that BMT just announced its MSS (multi-role support ship) concept… I suspect HMG wants to go cheaper with the LSS by doing RoRo conversions but might… Read more »

andy reeves

poor old argus her and the two boats of the gib squadron, deserve a long happy retirement, they’ve earned it

Mr Bell

Perfect expenditure for our world’s most generous international development fund to pay for. £15 billion a year. Win win sutuation. Jobs and investment into the UK. Very useful 2nd quasi military capability. 3 of these vessels crewed by the RFA but funded by IDF.
What’s not to like?
Have to be military/ RFA crewed as disaster zones require governmental personnel trained in this area. Only the military can offer disaster relief support to the full spectrum required.

Levi Goldsteinberg

So could this be forward deployed alongside a Bay-class in that Caribbean base that was being talked about? A guy I know in the RN says that that plan is still a go-er but everything seems to have gone very quiet on that front publicly


Simple money grab.

Glass Half Full

This project seems to have a remarkably narrow focus. Hurricane season in the Atlantic seems to be ~6 months from June to November, with the peak of bad weather from August to October. Even if we assume a ship needs to be on station for the full 6 month season, that still leaves the balance of the year when disaster is highly unlikely. Not a very useful use of an asset, primarily intended for disaster relief, and not a good use of DFID funds.


Australia is also looking at a disaster relief / aid ship for the South Pacific. The South Pacific Cyclone season is roughly November to April. It’s just a short hop through the Panama Canal from the Caribbean. This could easily give you 5 months in each & 2 for maintenace. Scope for some cost sharing? Perhaps bring in France & New Zealand as well? Or would that level of cooperation be just too hard?

Glass Half Full

That suggestion would seem to be a lot more practical. The French and the Dutch might even be interested in participating in the Caribbean operation too. Or the ship might stay predominantly in the Caribbean for the hurricane season and then transit the Atlantic to operate around Africa. In the Africa role it would operate more as a teaching hospital, aiming both to enhance local medical skills and perform more advanced treatments beyond current local capabilities. The Africa role is more consistent with a DFID role too.

So several options that would seem to make broader use of the asset.


Perhaps a case for a class build. Building one off’s is expensive. A class of 3 (one each for the Atlantic, Indian & Pacific). Perhaps look to bringing USA, Canada & Japan onboard, as well as Australia, New Zealand, UK, France, Netherlands. A lot of money gets wasted by allocating it in small lots & its hard to evaluate if its being well spent. Ship based support eliminates the potential for corruption & offers much more security for staff. You know exactly what the money is being spent on, where & why. There is far too much reinventing the wheel… Read more »


Seems like charity outsourcing of DFID/MOD responsibility, I am all for a British hospital ship however it should be paid for by DFID and be an RFA/RN vessel.


So, is it just me or does the drawing look a lot like one of those cruise ships that tour the Caribbean? Or at least a mini-cruise ship… Maybe that could be the way to recoup the cost of building these ships. Use it as a tourist/work resort ship in the off-season, and during hurricane season, switch back to being a disaster relief ship.

Yes, I am being silly.

Jim Fraser

Totally whacky idea. Resilient infrastructure in hurricane affected regions is the answer.

andy reeves

should be financed by the u.n