The idea of using a floating drydock to maintain the Queen Elizabeth class carriers has been rejected by the Royal Navy.

Stephen Morgan, the Shadow Minister for Local Government, asked in a written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the use of floating docks for the maintenance of Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.”

James Heappey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, responded:

“The Royal Navy and Defence Equipment & Support are working together to develop a long-term dry docking plan for the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers. The use of floating dry docks was reviewed early in these deliberations; however, they were rejected on infrastructure, security and access grounds.”

The Royal Navy are likely to use Rosyth or even, potentially, a custom built drydock in Portsmouth or another location for this work in future.

Floating dry docks aren’t new but docking ships the size of larger aircraft carriers is relatively infrequent. Even the recent dual docking of two US Navy Destroyers (pictured above) took remarkable planning, skill, and extreme precision say BAE Systems.

Last year, as Russian carrier Kuznetsov was undergoing repairs in a floating drydock in Murmansk’s Shipyard 82, the drydock sank and a crane on the drydock slammed into the Kuznetsov, leaving a gash in the ship’s hull.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

It would make sense to have a dry dock at thier home base of Pompey. Preferably one with a larger entrance….Rosyth is pretty damn tight!


And for one if we could actually build it sufficiently large to deal with any future ships…think about 100 years from now rather than just the next 20-30..

Andy P

Hi Rudeboy, I mind the old AFD60 when it was in Faslane, these things aren’t really designed to last that length of time, they spend their time in the water too mind. It was pretty shagged out when we sold it to Iceland (I think) although I think it slipped its tow on the way.


I did mean a proper dry dock, not a floating dock.
Although some of the USN’s WW2 ones are still in use…


There is a mothballed dry dock in Southampton (a literal stones throw from Pompey), the King George V Graving Dock built for the Cunard liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. To me this would be the the most sensible option, it’s close to HMB Portsmouth, its large enough to accommodate the vessels (I think it’s large enough for US carrier too) and surely its cheaper to recommission this rather than starting from scratch with a new dock?


Monty wrote:
“There is a mothballed dry dock in Southampton (a literal stones throw from Pompey), the King George V Graving Dock built for the Cunard liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. To me this would be the the most sensible option, it’s close to HMB Portsmouth,

Its also across the water from Marchwood Camp where the RLC have their port.


Just measured that on google earth it’s wide enough and long enough but no mention of depth online and would need modifying to make it 1 continuous width instead of stepping in as there’s only a 1.2 meters spare each side at the narrow points. Also appears it’s lock door has been removed.


Southampton has nowhere near enough of the infrastructure needed in the vicinity of the KGV dock to support dry-docking and repair and regeneration operations for large naval vessels. We’re not just looking for somewhere to park them, remember. Easier to expand the dock at Portsmouth.
But we all know there’ll be a fudge at Rosyth, years late, with ridiculously tight tolerances on the dock entrance and under the bridges meaning that for most weeks of the year the QE Class won’t be able to get in and we’ll never be able to support the Ford Class.


Politically, building one in the north east ought to be plausible. Hull?

Mick J

Able Seaton Port River Tees 335m by 300m 14m deep Gate 122m


The biggest dry dock on earth is at Hartlepool…

The Big Man

And what a fantastic message this would send the SNP.

Peter Elliott

A few others to throw in alongside Southampton and Rosyth: Harland & Wolff in Belfast has a big enough dock, with gates, and space alongside to develop a secure refit complex. It is a dock that also gets used for oil and wind projects too, so MoD would basically have to buy out that work if it wanted prime availability. St Nazaire exists just across the channel. There’s even a Royal Navy historical connection with the site :p (we once blew it up) Duqm Dry Dock in Oman is a new purpose built facility operated by Babcock. We have defence… Read more »


The dry dock and H&W was quickly cleared out when it went into admin. Plenty of room for them to hold a carrier right beside my office window. Why oh why can’t they dock there for refits.

Glass Half Full

Don’t overlook ABLE Seaton Port – Dry Dock on the Tees. To quote from their web site, “ASP’s dry dock is the only dry dock in Europe that has the capability of simultaneously docking two aircraft carriers,” measuring 376m long and 233m wide with an entrance width of 120m.

Glass Half Full

Save the Royal Navy has an article on the options, discussing pro’s and con’s.

Barry White

Has Devonport got a dock big enough
If the answer is yes wouldn’t it be cheaper all round to dredge the Hamoze so they can get up river?
I know it a hard bottom but with todays technology i bet theres a way that it could be done thats cheaper than building a new dock


GUZ needs more than dredging. Western Mill when it was built required solid rock to be ground out to get the seabed clear.
There is sand on the bottom but below that is granite and that is difficult and expensive to shift.

One of the reasons GUZ does nuclear work is that the existing docks are tied into bed rock which helps with the nuclear work safety case.


Don’t forget Bahrain. The commercial Dry Dock can take a QE class. That question was asked by MOD nearly 4 years ago so that options where available if a QE is damaged in the Gulf and cannot get back through the Straits. For a dry docking of a carrier most commercial yards can manage it. Except for a midlife update most work on the Hull will be 1. Underwater Hull Blasting, survey and painting. 2. Prop changes. 3. Shaft changes 4. Underwater Hull valve overhauls. All these are commercial yard bread and butter. Consider that a 300k +Ton VLCC/ ULCC… Read more »

Paul Gibson

It fits in to dock as per design. Has returned and entry and exit went without as hitch or a scratch!

John Shulver

The article was taking about floating dry docks, not dry docks in general


Slightly digressing how many people knew of this new Italien LHD (30,000 tonnes)


Yup it’s due to replace their carrier Garibaldi when it’s retired. Interesting that it’s classified as an LHD as it’s the same size as the Cavour, their other current carrier, and will operate both helicopters and F35Bs. They seem to be following the later America class ships in that it has an air wing and a well-deck.

Interesting to see another ship with two islands like the QE class.


you won’t find a more picturesque naval yard than that


Would love to see similar (or built under licence) as the Albion Class replacement.


Good to see the Italians build a replacement model and have it ready before the one being replaced goes out of service, such a great idea that the RN might want to consider for a change.


a naval base called “Portsmouth” in Maine!



The Big Man

Yep I was there summer of last year. Portsmouth itself is a lovely town with stunning wooden houses in the old part and housing prices similar to the south over here. Lovely place with great history and massive lifting bridges.


This is how deep in the RN has got the UK taxpayer, in addition to lying about manpower requirements. No likely scenario for employment and a global strategic vernerabily. All that is left to supporters is the physical impressiveness. Unfortunately our enemies deal in death and destruction,and judge our capabilities accordingly.
It’s nice to see that the ships vast complement sorts out its recyclable waste.


What utter gibberish as usual grubbie, bloody hell!


Well floating drydocks are nothing new and used extensively in the commercial world.. They are flexible and a lot easier to set up for use than a graving dock.
However space around the Hull is restricted and the inbuilt cranes that run along the Dock wings are a lot smaller than regular cranes.


If only we had the largest dry dock in Europe with two huge cranes to lift heavy equipment on and off the carriers during refits.

Oh wait that’s right we do.


The largest dry dock in Europe is in Hartlepool…


Which dock in Hartlepool


Able UK’s at Seaton.