Serco has contracted Damen Shipyards Group to build a powerful new tug to support the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers at Portsmouth Naval Base as part of its contract to provide Marine Services to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UK MOD). The vessel will be the first of its type under the UK Flag.
The Damen-built ART (Advanced Rotortug®) 80-32 tug will have the manoeuvrability, power (80 Tonnes Bollard Pull) and towing flexibility needed to support the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, the two largest ships ever commissioned for the Royal Navy.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are currently under construction at Rosyth on the River Forth in Scotland. Construction of the tug is also well already underway and Serco expect to take delivery of the vessel in early 2017.
Serco currently provides a wide range of marine services to the UK MOD operating out of Portsmouth, Devonport and the Scottish west coast sites at Greenock, Faslane and Kyle of Lochalsh. This includes passenger ferry, towage and nuclear safety support for the Royal Navy and visiting foreign Naval submarines and ships; oil spill response; weapons range safety vessels; pilot transfer; fuel/water/sullage/sewage; diving training support craft, including therapeutic recompression capability; worldwide support to military training; and NATO Submarine Rescue System, training and deployment platform.
The company is the UK’s largest operator of British flagged vessels and this new vessel will bring its total fleet to 115, of which 31 will be Damen-built.
The Damen-built ART features a patented Rotortug® propulsion system consisting of three azimuthing thrusters which provide enhanced omni-directional manoeuvrability, and the benefits of a fully redundant and precise machinery configuration. Serco has also specified a number of modifications to the Robert Allan Ltd design to enable her to support the huge aircraft carriers. These include a double drum render /recovery aft winch for redundancy and a foldable mast for safe working under the flight deck overhang.
Furthermore, like the previously built tugs, Damen is fitting the 32.9-metre long tug with grey fendering to match the livery of Royal Navy vessels, thus preventing marking of the hulls. They will also be installing controllable pitch propellers instead of the usual fixed pitch propellers found on other ART 80-32 vessels.
Serco and Damen have a long established relationship: the Dutch shipbuilder rounded off a 29-vessel order for the UK-based company back in 2010. In May 2015, Serco took delivery of their 30th Damen new build SD Angeline, a MultiCat 2613S procured on behalf of the MOD. This vessel, although based on a standard MultiCat, has several significant differences from a stock item.
Iain MacLeod, Business Operations Manager for Serco Marine Services, said “Serco has provided round-the-clock, mission critical support to the Royal Navy at Portsmouth for almost 20 years. We are delighted to enhance our fleet with this fantastic new tug, which will play a very important role at the naval base, and the team eagerly await her arrival. There were significant challenges to be met with respect to vessel power, manoeuvrability, customisation and delivery time, but once again, it was a pleasure to deal with Damen who more than rose to the challenge”.
Damen Sales Manager UK, Arjen van Elk, added: “It will be a proud moment for the Damen team to see one of our tugs assisting such an important member of the UK naval fleet.”
On the top photo from left to right:
Arjen van Elk (Sales Manager, Damen Shipyards Group), Iain Macleod (Business Operations Manager, Serco Marine Services)