First Tide-class RFA tanker begins maintenance period at Cammell Laird

RFA Tidespring arrived on the Mersey on 8th February to begin her first docking. She is the first vessel in the RFA fleet to undergo maintenance as part of the Future In-Service Support (FISS) contracts awarded in October 2018.

Cammell Laird has been chosen to provide support to the four Tide class tankers for the next decade following a competitive two-year tender process. The company will also continue to support RFA Fort Victoria, Fort Austin, Fort Rosalie, Wave Knight and Wave Ruler, which it has done since 2008. The FISS contract will sustain more than 300 jobs at CL and its supply chain and will allow the recruitment of around 20 young people from the Liverpool area each year to join as apprentices. More than 250 apprentices have been recruited by CL since 2008, with in excess of £18 million invested in the apprentice programme.

Tugs assist RFA Tidespring entering the wet basin at Cammell Laird.

Cammell Laird was founded in 1828 and their Birkenhead facility extends to 130 acres and includes four dry docks, a large modular construction hall and extensive covered workshops. The company floated off the car ferry ‘Red Kestrel’ from the building slipway on 19th February. This £10 million vessel was built for Isle of Wight ferry operator Red Funnel, and CL won the contract in an open international competition. Although a relatively small project, it is a positive sign, more commercial shipbuilding activity in the UK is good for the economy and the Royal Navy. In spite of its successes, the shipbuilding and repair business is always precarious, with at least 120 CL workers likely to be made redundant because there is not enough new construction work to employ people in the immediate future.

CL laid the keel for RRS Sir David Attenborough in 2016 and she was launched in July 2018. She is fitting out in the dry dock adjacent to where RFA Tidespring is berthed and is due for completion in October 2019. She is a complex £200 million vessel featuring a moon pool – a 4m diameter vertical shaft running through the vessel for lowering scientific equipment into the water column through the centre, and most stable part, of the hull. She also has a sophisticated propulsion system designed by Rolls Royce to reduce emissions and generate a very low noise signature. Experience gained building this vessel will serve CL well, should they be involved in the construction of the Type 31e frigates. Complex warship construction is a considerably more demanding task than work on Royal Fleet Auxiliaries or small commercial vessels.

RFA Tidespring was launched in April 2015. She was fitted out for military service in Falmouth between March – September 2017. She has since spent 15 months on operations at sea. The inaugural docking period will be carried out over the next four months and will include survey work, and general repair and maintenance projects. Tidespring has had a successful introduction into service, including supporting HMS Queen Elizabeth and NATO navies. RFA personnel serving on board are reportedly very satisfied with the Tide class.

RFA Tiderace is operating from Plymouth as the FOST tanker helping to train RN and NATO warships. RFA Tidesurge was formally dedicated into the fleet at Greenock on the Clyde on 20th February. RFA Tideforce left Falmouth last month and loaded her first fuel for issue at Loch Striven Oil & Fuel Jetty last week. She continues her trials and will be dedicated into the RFA Fleet later this year.