Work begins on Royal Navy sea survival training centre

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

The project will replace the old facility established in 1982 following the introduction of a statutory requirement for all Royal Navy personnel…

The project will replace the old facility established in 1982 following the introduction of a statutory requirement for all Royal Navy personnel to undertake regular 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 crew managed to quickly and safely transfer to other Royal Navy ships that drew alongside the damaged vessels, some crew 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 placed the training requirements at a high priority. Accordingly, the dedicated Sea Survival Training Centre was established at Horsea Island 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 that of exposure in open water
• treating 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 has provided the necessary approvals to construct a new facility, adjacent to the existing buildings, which still retains the asset of the man-made lake.

Construction is due for completion in January 2012, and is being managed by the Royal Naval Infrastructure Organisation, with the contract being delivered through a partnering relationship with Babcock (formally VT Flagship) and the principle contractor Mansell Construction, supported by a design team from Gifford Consulting. The architect is the Peter Galloway Partnership.

Commander Bob White, Project Sponsor for the Royal Navy Infrastructure Organisation, said:

This project will provide 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.

Derek Jackson, Operations Manager, Mansell Construction Services Ltd, said:

The new Sea Survival Training Centre has been carefully designed to specifically meet the operation 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.