24 Nov 2023

Portuguese Navy signs contract with Damen Shipyards for innovative Multi-Purpose Vessel

Contract for the design, construction and outfitting of a state-of-the-art Multi-Purpose Vessel

Rick van de Weg

‘World’s first’ vessel will combine oceanic research with drone deployment capabilities

The Portuguese Navy has contracted Damen Shipyards Group for the design, construction and outfitting of a state-of-the-art Multi-Purpose Vessel. The contract was signed by Director of Ships Rear Admiral Jorge Pires and Damen Shipyards Group CCO Jan Wim Dekker. The project follows a European tender process and is funded by the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) that is part of NextGenerationEU (the economic recovery package to support EU member states affected by the COVID-19 pandemic).

Damen has developed this 107-metre long Multi-Purpose Vessel based on the specific requirements of the Portuguese Navy. The resulting design is truly a multi-purpose platform, with primary mission roles including oceanic research, search and rescue, and emergency relief in addition to maritime safety and naval support operations. To this end, the vessel will be capable of deploying unmanned drones and helicopters.

For the oceanic research and monitoring scope of operations, the vessel will be equipped with laboratories and accommodation for scientific staff. For the naval support aspect, the Damen-built vessel will have numerous design features to enable such operations. This will comprise a stern ramp for UUVs and USVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles and Unmanned Surface Vehicles) as well as a 94x11-metre flight deck and hangars for UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

The new vessel will be classified by the Portuguese Navy as a Multifunctional Naval Platform (PNM). To fully match this vessel designation, Damen has collaborated closely with the Portuguese Navy to incorporate future-versatility into the design. This consists of a 650m2 cargo deck and space for twelve 20-foot containers. Modular systems such as containerised hospital facilities, hyperbaric chambers, or ROV equipment can therefore be installed as required.

“We are proud to have been selected to build this spectacular vessel for the Portuguese Navy,” Damen Shipyards Group CEO Arnout Damen said after the contract signing ceremony. “We are convinced that this vessel will represent a major milestone in the naval sector. It is the first of its kind, with the highest capabilities to create awareness, deploy and manage all types of drones. This vessel’s multi-purpose functionality will enable the Portuguese Navy to develop the most demanding missions and at the same time the ability to perform research activities in the deepest areas of the ocean. It also underlines Damen’s firm relationship with the Portuguese Navy and shows a further example of European defence industry cooperation”

The Portuguese Navy currently has two Damen-built vessels in service. These are the 122-metre long Bartolomeu Dias class multi-purpose frigates NRP Bartolomeu Dias and NRP D. Francisco de Almeida. Both vessels originally served in the Royal Netherlands Navy (as Karel Doorman class frigates) before undergoing a substantial modernisation programme by Damen and the Dutch Command Materiel and IT (COMMIT) agency.