A&P Group’s Falmouth yard has marked the end of the multi-million pound refit of RFA Largs Bay – the second ship in her class to undergo a major refit at the docks.
The RFA Largs Bay was formally handed over to the Australian Department of Defence, which bought the ship, at an official signing ceremony on Friday (Oct 14th).
The ship has been renamed ADFS Choules, after Claude Choules, the last combat veteran of the first world war, who died earlier this year aged 110. British born, he began his 41-year military career with the Royal Navy, later relocating to Australia and joining the Royal Australian Navy. The new name was chosen to recognise the strong links that bind Australia and Great Britain.
Work began in June and was completed on September 29 – one day early. The major refit included:
• Overhauling the main propulsion system, including diesel generators and azimuths
• Repainting the hull and flight deck
• Upgrading the tropical cooling system
• Upgrading and maintaining the salt water system
• Overhauling the stern ramp
• Extending the bridge front walkway
• Various safety enhancements
• Supplying and installing Mexeflote pontoon
• Installing temporary air shelter
In a speech during the ceremony, Australian Cmdre Steve McDowall praised the “seemingly limitless flexibility” and “highly professional performance” of A&P Falmouth and the Cluster Support Team.
In August A&P Falmouth welcomed Australian Defence Minister Jason Clare MP and Australia’s Chief of Navy Ray Griggs to the docks to inspect RFA Largs Bay.
The grey ship, which has become a recognisable sight on the Falmouth skyline, is due to leave the docks later this month, arriving in Fremantle, Australia in mid December.
Gerald Pitts, A&P’s Cluster Director, said: “Building on the successful first of class refit on the Mounts Bay in 2010, the sister vessel to Largs Bay, we were delighted to undertake this project.
“Due to programme changes the Cluster Support Team and the team at A&P had a very tight timescale to develop a specification, plan the work and complete the project, but I am pleased to say work was completed on schedule.
“We learned a great deal during the refit of the RFA Mounts Bay last year. We were able to put these lessons into action while we worked on the RFA Largs Bay and a number of improvements were made. No doubt we will have more improvements to put into practice when we perform the next major refit, which is due on the RFA Lyme Bay next year.”
A&P Group has a contract with the MOD to provide upkeep support to Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships. The partnership has led to a more economical approach to ship repair and maintenance throughout the RFA flotilla, through advanced planning, knowledge of the vessels, continuous improvements in working practices, the reliable quality of work and availability of the docks.
The new approach is estimated to deliver millions of pounds of savings to the MOD over 30 years on the previous arrangements, which saw individual contracts competed for as and when they were required, and has already been praised in Parliament.
Peter Child, Managing Director of A&P Falmouth, said: “The Ministry of Defence has strong ties with Falmouth and we are delighted to celebrate the continuing success of the partnership between A&P Group and the RFA and to showcase what has been achieved.
“The contract helps provide the company – and it’s highly skilled employees – with vital security for the future. We provide excellent value for money, as we proved last year with the RFA Mounts Bay, which was the first ship in its class to undergo a major refit.
“We have a worldwide reputation for excellence and efficiency and continue to develop our resources and invest in our skills base.”
Former Royal Navy and RFA vessels are in considerable demand as a cost effective alternative to new build options. The A&P Group has a good record of regenerating UK MoD vessels and has a specialist team of experts available, not only to regenerate the ships but also to install new equipment and train personnel in its safe and effective operation.
Mr Child said: “As the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary accepts new warships and auxiliaries into the fleet, older ships that still have a service life are potentially very attractive assets for overseas navies.
“Warship regeneration is a complex and demanding requirement and A&P Group has responded to this new business stream by becoming a major provider to the UK MoD and overseas navies in the past three years by returning these ships to service with the new owners.”
Next on the agenda for A&P Falmouth is the major refit of the RFA Cardigan Bay, which arrived in the port in August. Work is due to be completed by January 2012, and will include further improvements and efficiencies identified during work on the RFA Largs Bay.
Planning is also already underway for the RFA Lyme Bay refit period next June.