Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Victoria has returned to sea following a dry-docking period at Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead shipyard that saw the vessel undergo its 30-year special survey.
The supply ship is one of the largest vessels operated by the UK Ministry of Defence and plays a key role at the forefront of British naval operations.
RFA Fort Victoria sailed from Cammell Laird’s non-tidal wet basin bound for Loch Striven in Scotland in January, having undergone a major programme of work carried out under a 10-year Through Life Support contract awarded to the marine engineering services provider in 2018.
Key aspects of the ship’s 30-year special survey included inspections and maintenance of RFA Fort Victoria’s main engines, propulsion systems and steering equipment. All of the ship’s side valves, more than 230, were also inspected and serviced. The vessel’s ballast valve operation remote control was upgraded, along with its stores and Replenishment at Sea (RAS) cranes. A full tank survey was carried out and a new hangar crane installed.
The latest work followed a two-phase life extension programme completed by Cammell Laird in 2018, designed to keep RFA Fort Victoria in service.
John Kennedy, MOD Programme Director at Cammell Laird, said: “Merseyside is once again a major hub for shipbuilding, ship repair, conversions and refits, and we’re only too pleased to be using our world-class skills and facilities to support the RFA Flotilla.
“During the past decade we have established a strong relationship with the RFA and built up considerable expertise. The workforce’s in-depth knowledge of RFA Fort Victoria is invaluable – it allows us to strive for continuous improvement, provide value for money for UK taxpayers and maximise the availability of these ships for the RFA.”
During her time in dry dock, RFA Fort Victoria’s port and starboard propellers, propeller shafts, inner and outer stern seals, all intermediate shafts, shaft couplings and bearing blocks were unshipped from their normal working positions and presented to the class surveyor before being refitted. The ship’s propulsion line gearboxes were inspected at the same time, which in turn allowed engineers to inspect and renew major items on both clutches, and refurbish two shaft brakes.
In addition, the ship’s lifeboats and lifeboat davits were put through a programme of testing and maintenance, while steelwork surveys and repairs were carried out in one of the ship’s lift shafts.
Mr Kennedy added: “Managing the available space on board RFA Fort Victoria was a particularly challenging aspect of this refit as we were turning an already congested space into a major workplace filled with heavy lifting equipment, specialised tooling and skilled tradespeople. As a result, we needed to move a large number of ancillary items to a safe stowage area before work could commence.”
The two 10-year Through Life Support contracts awarded to Cammell Laird in 2018 help sustain more than 300 jobs at the company and across its supply chain. They also support the continuation of the firm’s apprentice training programme, which takes in around 20 talented young people from the area each year. On this occasion, Cammell Laird apprentices supported the servicing and inspection of Fort Victoria’s main engines and propulsion systems. More than 200 apprentices have been recruited since 2008, with in excess of £12million invested in staff training.