Maritime facility to maintain replenishment safety

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) sailors will be getting their hands on a new bespoke training facility to teach them how to safely transfer vital supplies from ship to ship whilst at sea.

The MOD has signed a £25m contract with Rolls-Royce Power Engineering, based in Bristol, to develop a new range of replenishment at sea (RAS) equipment.

RAS is a method of transferring fuel, munitions and general stores from one ship to another while afloat and takes place during the day or night and in all weathers.

The new facility will feature a classroom block and RAS systems built around a 25-metre steel mast and steel ship structures at the Seamanship Training Unit, HMS Raleigh, in Torpoint, Cornwall.

HMS Raleigh’s Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Murdoch, said:

Replenishment at sea is a vital capability that enables our ships to restore without coming back into port and therefore stay on the operational task.

It is also one of the most hazardous seamanship tasks the Royal Navy engages in and so the training we provide must be of the highest standard.

This maintains the safety of our ships’ crews and ensures that vital supplies are transferred successfully.

This new training facility will allow us to properly and safely prepare our crews for the challenges they will face at sea, particularly in our new Type 45 destroyers and new class of aircraft carriers, before they undertake the task for real.

Richard Dingley of Rolls-Royce added:

Replenishment at sea is a vital part of modern naval operations and we are delighted to be pioneering an innovative system that will deliver world-leading capability for the Royal Navy.

The new training facility is due for completion in 2014 to enable RAS training for the next 25 years.

Replenishment at sea

• During RAS ships can come within just 50 metres of each other, travelling at least 10 knots, and are linked together by heavy tensioned wires to transfer supplies. It is vital the operation is completed quickly and that crews are highly trained to carry out transfers safely.

• Under the contract Rolls-Royce will manage the construction of a land-based demonstrator at HMS Raleigh to trial new Heavy RAS (HRAS) equipment.

• The innovative HRAS system will comprise two steel rigs that replicate those found on a supply vessel, such as a tanker, and the receiving ship. Between these rigs, a series of steel cables and winches are suspended.

• Hydraulics will simulate the roll of the ships to prove that heavier loads can be transferred quickly in challenging seas for five hours. Equipment will also need to meet demanding transfer rates of 25 loads per hour.

• HRAS will enable heavier-than-ever loads to be transferred between ships, more than doubling the amount of vital supplies moved at once. The current weight limit for existing Royal Navy RAS systems is two tonnes and the new system will be capable of handling up to five tonnes.

This report first appeared in the April 2011 issue of desider - the magazine for Defence Equipment and Support.