The replacement for HMSML Gleaner has been confirmed as one of the series of new workboats announced earlier this month in a £48 million contract.
Cork based shipyard Safehaven Marine will be constructing the vessel, the largest in the new workboat fleet, based off their proven Wildcat 60 design. These 18m catamarans have a loaded displacement around 37 tonnes with a capacity for up to twelve-crew to be berthed onboard, and an endurance of seven days. They are capable of deploying a range of sonar options and are all weather capable.
Vessels from the Wildcat series, which come in a range of sizes and models, are already serving a variety of government and commercial organisations across the globe including the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Port of Liverpool and Manchester Shipping Canal.
With an overall length of 18m the new vessel is larger than the existing Gleaner, currently the Royal Navy’s smallest commissioned vessel and will see that title pass onto the fast patrol boats HM Ships Scimitar and Sabre of the Gibraltar Squadron.
The Survey Motor Launch role may not be one of the navy’s more glamorous duties but has proven invaluable in recent years. As well as routine work updating charts and records around British coastal waters, HMS Gleaner has been extensively involved in preparations for the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. This included surveys to ascertain the success of dredging works in the Firth of Forth and entrance to Portsmouth harbour.
The new workboat fleet will comprise a variety of small vessels to support fleet operations across the globe and will include the vessels to be embarked aboard the new aircraft carriers. Roles will include dive training, officer training and passenger transport as well as survey duties. The modular design will allow the vessels to change roles quickly as needs dictate. At least thirty-three vessels will be built under the current contract with options for five more available.
It is unclear at this stage if the new workboat will be formally commissioned as a naval vessel, if so it would be notable as the first commissioned Royal Navy vessel to be built in Ireland since its independence.
HMSML Gleaner is due to be decommissioned in December of this year after thirty-four years’ service, her replacement will enter service in May 2018.