Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has today visited Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth to view the preparations to ready the city to become the base port of the brand new Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers in early 2017.
Taller than Nelson’s Column and over one and a half times the length of the Spinnaker Tower laid on its side, the QEC Carriers will displace up to 65,000 tonnes of water. To accommodate their vast size and bow design, over three million cubic metres of clay, sand and gravel will be removed from over two miles of Portsmouth Harbour, covering an area the size of over 200 football pitches.
During his visit, Mr Fallon took to the water to see how work is progressing on rebuilding the jetty that will be the home of HMS Queen Elizabeth when she moves to Portsmouth in 2017. He also met employees from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) which is responsible for the jetty upgrade and for the dredging in and around Portsmouth Harbour which will widen and deepen the approaches for the two carriers – the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy.
Mr Fallon also announced the award of a £13.5 million contract to a Portsmouth-based company to provide small boats that will operate from the Carriers.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
Work on the Carriers is a national undertaking, with shipyards across the country, from Scotland to Devon, lending Great British brainpower and skills to the programme. And here in Portsmouth, the start of dredging works marks an important milestone as the city prepares to become the home of the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers. Our £100 million investment in the naval base and the arrival of the Carriers in 2017 will support and sustain thousands of jobs across the region.
The dredging project forms just part of the £100 million invested in HM Naval Base Portsmouth to develop the docks and ensure the city is ready to become the base for both HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, which is also rapidly taking shape in Rosyth. More than half of the £100 million has been awarded to refurbish the jetty and other port infrastructure including high-voltage power and the navigational aids necessary to safely berth the Carriers.
In June, the DIO awarded a contract worth £31 million to Fareham-based Boskalis Westminster Ltd for work to ready the harbour for the ships. To prepare for the arrival of the main dredging vessel, a crane barge, known as Strekker, has already begun removing debris from the Harbour, including 19th century anchors.
DIO Project Manager Philip Wise said:
The work underway at HMNB Portsmouth is vital in order to ensure the right infrastructure is in place ready for the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers. This is not only important in terms of supporting military capability but also for the city of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth is already home to some of the most advanced warships ever built for the Royal Navy. The addition of the two aircraft carriers will guarantee significant work into the future for Portsmouth businesses and the naval base.
Commodore Jeremy Rigby, Naval Base Commander Portsmouth, said:
I was delighted to update the Secretary of State for Defence on the progress being made in the Naval Base to support the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers.
We are working hard to ensure the base is ready to receive the carriers by the end of next year. These are exciting times for the Naval Base and the wider Portsmouth area as we prepare for these ships which will secure the future of the base for at least the next 50 years.
While in Portsmouth, the Defence Secretary announced a new £13.5million contract with BAE Systems for 60 new PACIFIC 24 Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats. Though dwarfed in size by the Carriers, the P24 form a vital part of the Royal Navy fleet, not only acting as ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore transfer, but rapid response craft in fast rescue, anti-piracy and counter-narcotics missions.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon continued:
These 60 new RIBs provide a vital capability to the Royal Navy and are a clear benefit of the £178 billion this government is investing in new military equipment.
Built in Portsmouth dockyard this contract is not only good news for the Navy, but also for BAE Systems whose innovation has provided a modern design that will allow our armed forces to carry out operations ranging from armed boarding including anti-piracy and counter-narcotics missions to providing emergency rescue.
New and innovative suspension seating in the P24 will also better protect against shocks experienced in high speed boat operations and exposure to vibration over longer periods.
Neal Lawson, Director Ships Support at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said:
The signing of this contract is not only good news for the Royal Navy and BAE Systems in Portsmouth but also for the Queen Elizabeth Carrier programme as these small boats will provide vital support on operations.