Page 26: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (July 2003)
Investment in Design
A New Chapter in Naval Shipbuilding
As a resounding endorsement of its long-term commitment to shipbuilding in the U.K., Vosper Thornycroft (VT) has created a state-of-the-art ship pro- duction facility within Portsmouth
Naval Base. Having recently attained preliminary operational status through steel cutting on 295-ft. (90-m) transport barge, the 33-acre naval shipbuilding yard is set to play a key role in the con- struction of the Royal Navy's next gen- eration of destroyers while extending
VT's overall build capabilities and mar- ket reach.
It has been some decades since Britain last saw the opening of a new yard of any significant size, and VT's initiative ensures a future for the industry in southern England. The $82.2-million project is all the more impressive for the fact that it has been achieved with no call on the public purse, whether at cen- tral, regional or local government level.
Through its emphasis on automated processes, fully under-cover fabrication and assembly, and optimized workflow and logistics, the new yard should enable VT to boost productivity by as much as 20-percent relative to opera- tions at the group's Woolston yard in
Southampton. Woolston is to be closed, and the scheduled run-down in work envisions VT's wholesale departure by
March next year.
The move provides the shipbuilding and support services group with the resources to attract contracts on the home and overseas markets for a much broader range of business than could be handled at space-constrained Woolston.
The Portsmouth site offers room for expansion, a fact that is particularly salient to VT's aspirations to a stake in the program for the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers (CVF).
Key elements of VT Shipbuilding's
Portsmouth facility are the 426,5-ft. (130-m) unit construction hall and ship assembly hall, and the refurbished, 10,000-sq. m. steel production hall. The ship assembly hall stands on an infilled drydock, reclaimed using 100,000-tons of marine-dredged material to provide the foundation for the massive new structure. The site also has at least one drydock that can be used specifically for ship outfitting.
The investment at Portsmouth was made possible by VT's contract to con- struct and outfit the forward section. funnel and masts for each of the six Type 45 destroyers ordered to date by the U.K
Ministry of Defense. The ship sections will be transported by barge to BAE
Systems' Scottish yards for final assem- bly. Production work on the series is scheduled to start later this year. In addi- tion to constructing blocks for the destroyers and potentially other vessels,
VT is looking to secure orders, which would enable the concurrent building of whole vessels, such as patrol ships, corvettes and other tonnage.
On the export market, VT has been shortlisted to supply, under a technology transfer deal, up to seven patrol vessels of varying sizes to the New Zealand
Navy, and is also bidding for three 262- ft. (80-m) ocean patrol vessels sought by
Oman. The group has completed much of its share of work under a technology transfer agreement with the Greek ship- yard Elefsis to supply three fast attack craft for the Hellenic Navy, and is in dis- cussions concerning two follow-on craft and a new corvette.
VT Shipbuilding stands to benefit from the announcement by the U.K.
Secretary of State for Defense in
January to place a contract with BAE
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Systems in partnership with Thales to design and deliver two new aircraft car- riers. At the time, the Secretary of State for Defense indicated his belief that the carriers could be built by a combination of four yards, including VT at
Portsmouth. VT is closely involved in talks with the BAE Systems/Thales team about both the level and nature of work it is best placed to carry out under the program, and is hoping to attract around 20-percent of the production hours as well as participating in the design and support activities.
Phase two of the development of the
Portsmouth premises will center on the elongation of the ship assembly hall by a further 230- to 656 ft. (70-to 200 m).
Success in winning work on the CVF program would lead to the implementa- tion of a third phase of development.
This could entail a third shipbuilding bay up to (190 m), to be built on the site of an adjoining drydock, which would be filled in to provide the platform for construction.
VT is also investigating the possible use of fast catamaran technology in application to U.K. military logistical requirements.
Integration the Theme
There is an ever-stronger case for truly functional integration in application to shipboard systems, on efficiency, relia- bility and safety grounds. As those at the sharp end know only too well, there is a world of difference between a package of assorted parts, albeit brought together in workmanlike fashion, and a system, which has been designed and crafted from the outset so that each and every element is optimized in relation to every other element. Advances in interfacing technology have had a signal influence 28 Maritime Reporter & Engineering News