The centre was opened by Commodore Adrian Nance Royal Navy (Retired) and his wife Mrs Barbara Nance. It was a poignant moment for Commodore Nance who has first-hand experience of the need to provide suitable sea survival training following his experiences serving on HMS Sheffield during the Falklands Conflict in 1982.
Commodore Nance said:
It is an honour to be here opening this building with my wife Barbara. Life is about surviving, in our work and private lives, and this facility supports the Navy’s practice of training their people to survive whatever the conditions.
I lost friends and colleagues whilst serving on HMS Sheffield during the Falklands Conflict, and I believe we should take a minute to remember those who did not survive.
As part of the opening ceremony Commodore Nance and his wife revealed a plaque naming the building ‘Ardent’, along with members of the HMS Ardent Association.
The £2.4m project has replaced the old facility established in 1982 following the introduction of the statutory requirement for all Royal Navy personnel to undertake initial and subsequent regular refresher training in ship abandonment and sea survival procedures.
During the Falklands Conflict, Her Majesty’s ships Coventry, Sheffield, Antelope and Ardent, together with Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram, were damaged to such an extent that personnel were required to abandon ship.
Whilst the majority of the crews managed to quickly and safely transfer to other Royal Navy ships that drew alongside the damaged vessels, some had to enter the extremely cold and hostile waters of the South Atlantic to await rescue either directly from the sea or from life rafts.
Despite Royal Navy personnel already undertaking an element of sea survival and ship abandonment training, the events of 1982 and the subsequent lessons learned brought the training requirements into sharper focus.
Accordingly the dedicated Sea Survival Training Centre at Horsea Island was established in Portsmouth.
The venue benefited from an adjacent man-made lake of relatively shallow water (8m) which is not influenced by tidal conditions - and was ideal to provide a safe and controlled environment in which to undertake waterborne training.
The training regime at the Sea Survival Training Centre now encompasses, but is not limited to:
- the wearing of life jackets and survival suits
- the deploying and management of life rafts and the effective operation of emergency location aids
- abandoning ship procedures
- training in the effects on personnel of ‘cold shock’ and exposure in open water
- training the sick and injured whilst in a life raft
Over time the training package has been adapted and refined to reflect changes in warship design methodology, the introduction of new safety equipment, and general lessons learned from the maritime community when shipping incidents have occurred.
Due to the intensive use of the Sea Survival Training Centre in delivering at least 10,000 training days per year and the need to maintain the continuous availability of the facility, Navy Command provided the necessary approvals to construct the new facility, adjacent to the existing buildings, which still retains the asset of the man-made lake.
Construction was completed in December 2011, slightly ahead of schedule, and was managed by the Royal Naval Infrastructure Organisation (RNIO), with the contract being delivered through a partnering relationship between Babcock (formally VT Flagship) and the principle contractor Mansell Construction, supported by a design team from Gifford Consulting.
Derek Jackson, Operations Manager, Mansell Construction Services Ltd, said:
The new Sea Survival Training Centre has been carefully designed to specifically meet the operational needs of the sea survival training programme whilst being sympathetic in its design to the close proximity of the SSSI [Site of Special Scientific Interest] conservation area at Horsea Island.
The project is another model example of the fully collaborative manner to deliver another bespoke design, high quality and fast track programme by RNIO and the VT Flagship Prime Team.
Commander Bob White, Project Sponsor for the Royal Naval Infrastructure Organisation, said:
This project has provided a new facility which is pivotal to the continued delivery of essential safety training that all Royal Navy personnel are required to undertake before serving at sea.