HMS Magpie has been in action already undergoing rough weather sea trials in the Irish Sea less than a month after being launched.

Magpie is the newest addition to the hydrographic squadron, replacing veteran survey launch Gleaner which paid off earlier this year in Plymouth.

Lieutenant Commander William Alexander, Magpie’s new commanding officer and Gleaner’s last, said:

“Magpie will help lead the way in modernising the Royal Navy’s survey and underwater surveillance capabilities. Her primary role will be in maintaining the integrity of coastal waters, ensuring safety of navigation and resilience of key national infrastructure in UK ports. And with an enduring presence around the UK, she will also contribute to national security at sea.”

She’s due to make the journey from Cork to Portland in Dorset for military/hydrographic equipment fitting out, equipment which is a marked improvement on what was installed on Gleaner, such as the latest high-resolution shallow-water multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan sonar. Magpie will also be able to launch remote-controlled underwater devices to search wide areas of seabed for obstructions or mines.

Cork based shipyard Safehaven Marine finished building the vessel recently, the vessel is the largest of a fleet of up to 38 new workboats ranging in size from 11 to 18 metres, for the Ministry of Defence.

These 18m catamarans have a loaded displacement around 37 tonnes with a capacity for up to twelve-crew to be berthed on-board, and an endurance of seven days. They are capable of deploying a range of sonar options and are all weather capable.

Safehave Marine say the design is suited to an ocean research and hydrographic survey catamaran capable of operating offshore for 7 days duration for 12 crew. To facilitate this the vessel has two sleeping cabins, one in the lower port hull and one in the st/bd hull, each fitted with 6x bunk berths and each cabin with its own separate heads compartment. A full galley is positioned in the f/wd port hull and is equipped for extended sea operations, fitted with a large capacity fridge freezer, dishwasher, 240v hob and microwave, large worktop areas and storage.

The vessel is fitted with twin Volvo D16 engines that provide the vessel with a 23kts maximum speed and an 19-20kts operational cruise speed.

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Small but vital vessels


“The mighty new Superdreadnought HMS Magpie accompanied by her sister ship, the equally powerful and majestic HMS Tweety Bird, plows majestically through heavy seas off Scapa Flow – forging ahead in supreme confidence of her unsinkable design, barely acknowledging the worst that Neptune himself can throw at her…” 😀

Seriously – a nicely designed craft that I would not complaint about in the least bit if I were able to take her on fishing cruises here in the Gulf of Mexico.



Tremble in fear at the invincible might of the Royal Navy you scurvey colonial dog :-p


Does anyone know if the Gibraltar squadron replacements are coming from this batch of ships or whether they are an entirely different breed (I know they need to be very fast and manouverable).

Equally any news on the fate of HMS Scimitar and Sabre once replaced? I know that the Cyprus squadron vessels were returned for service in the UK once things closed down there. Will it be a similar fate for S and S or are they likely to just be decomissioned for good?



I’m pretty sure magpie is going to be the only commission boat out of the batch, I think new gib squadron boats are going to be a seperate batch, I haven’t heard anything at all about the replacement since the replacements were announced

Daniele Mandelli

These ships are mostly work boats so I doubt it.


The boats apparently vary in length between 11 and 18 metres, so the shorter ones are similar length to 11 or 12 metre rhib and might fit the mission bay of a Type 26. The catamaran design would make them stable platforms and I am guessing well suited to riverine and expeditionary missions as well as launch platforms for UxVs. I see them as quite a strategic purchase.


My money is on HMS Ranger and Trumpeter. According to wiki these 2 Archer class are capable of being fitted with a 20mm cannon; off the batch 1 Rivers perhaps.


I don’t know about these boats specifically, but in general, there are 2 reasons for replacing a vessel: 1 – It’s obsolete and you’re replacing it with something better. In this case, it’s worth selling on to a navy with lower requirements or re-using in some less critical capacity. 2 – It’s a fairly low-capability design. In this case, you’re not going to ditch it until it’s completely knackered & not cost effective to keep in service. In this case, it’s only going to be useful to a navy that has extremely low labour costs in its shipyards. So I… Read more »


Key detail is that these can be stowed on a QE Class carrier so can travel with the fleet, to be fair if would do make a nice fishing boat.


All the kit on HMS Magpie should be transferable, and the boat itself should just be one of a hundred CB90s or similar. A bit like our Multi-mission Wildcats. We have several and the one in hand gets the ASW kit or whatever other kit as needed for the mission. Our logistic trucks are/should be the same. Need a well drilling? Just put the well drilling kit on a lorry and off you go. You don’t need a “special” lorry, just special kit on a standard lorry. These work boats should be the same. Just a boat on a stern… Read more »

Andy G

Very handy indeed.


Is that sea for real or photoshop?


I know. If real it must have been a pretty bumpy ride.


Safehaven Marine’s Twitter page features a video of her on sea trials:

Lee H

Can’t remember HMS Gleaner doing that ?
Hopefully the chef would have closed the galley down during those manoeuvres

Peter Crisp

It must be pretty handy for sea trials that the UK has some of the worst sea conditions imaginable right on our doorstep. It would be pretty exciting stuff to be on a mission where you’re told to go into bad weather to test these things and a real test of seamanship.

Well done to everyone involved.

A. Smith

It’s great to see the Type 31e finally on sea trials.

Sceptical Richard

What surprises me is that it has a Lieutenant Commander as captain. Mmm… a bit of an overkill? Surely a senior Lieutenant would do? Either the Navy has too many gash LtCdrs lying about the place or this boat is earmarked for more than just costal hydrographic work….

Lee H

1st of class.
I am sure that once in service and understood as a platform the rank will drop to the appropriate for the vessel.

Sceptical Richard

Oh, and photoshopped surely…!

Lee H

Saw the video and the other vessels that the company produce, very cool