RFA Lyme Bay, the fifth ship to have a multi-million pound refit as part of the Cluster contract at A&P Falmouth, has arrived in the port for work to begin.
She returned to Falmouth after three years in the Gulf supporting coalition operations.
The major refits, carried out every five years, have been completed on the RFA Argus, RFA Mounts Bay, RFA Largs Bay and RFA Cardigan Bay between 2009 and earlier this year.
The grey ships, which have become a familiar part of the Falmouth skyline over the past four years, are in the docks as part of the Cluster Support Programme – a contract between A&P Group and the MoD to provide worldwide support to the 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.
It 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.
The five-month programme of work to the RFA Lyme Bay will include a new exhaust; ballast water treatment installation; an overhaul of the main engines and propulsion systems; survey and recertification work; a full paint and antifouling programme; general upkeep and maintenance.
Gerald Pitts, A&P’s Cluster Director, said: “I am delighted to see the RFA Lyme Bay in Falmouth and for the team to be able to begin work, implementing further improvements and efficiencies we identified during the previous refits.
“The Cluster contract has been running for four years and we are currently working with the MoD to compile evidence proving it has delivered excellent value for money. We hope this will secure the option available to extend the contract through to June 2018, continuing to provide the support, maintenance and availability of the vessels.”
The Lyme Bay, mothership to the UK Mine Countermeasure Vessel (MCMV) fleet, has been deployed in the Gulf since the beginning of 2009, where she provides support to coalition forces. She has been relieved by the RFA Cardigan Bay, which left Falmouth earlier this year after receiving her own major refit and communication upgrade.
While the ship was half way across the world, the Lyme Bay was maintained by members of the Cluster Support Team, who regularly travel to the Gulf. She had multiple maintenance periods while in theatre and was drydocked in a shipyard in Bahrain.
Kevin Murray, Cluster Support Team Leader for the MoD, said: “Providing maintenance to the ships while they are on long term deployment demonstrates the flexibility and advantages of the MoD working jointly with industry. It’s cost-effective because it minimises down time, making sure the vessel is available for operational requirements.”
Earlier this year the RFA Cardigan Bay and Mounts Bay, both amphibious landing ships, and the RFA Argus, a casualty ship, were all in Falmouth. It is the first time three RFA ships have been in the port at the same time since being awarded the Cluster contract in 2008.
Since August 2010, A&P Falmouth has become a one stop shop for the four RFA vessels with its spares supply service. It provides all the in-service spares and logistics to ensure the vessels and their land based stores are kept fully stocked to keep them operational.
Benefits of the Cluster Programme include fast communication and decision-making; estimating and cost control; in-house design capability; programme planning and project management; a global key supplier network and preferred supplier arrangements.
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 Falmouth and the RFA and to showcase what has been achieved.
“The contract helps provide A&P Falmouth – and it’s highly skilled employees – with vital security for the future. We provide excellent value for money, as we have proved previously with the RFA Mounts Bay and Largs Bay and we look forward to continuing with the RFA Lyme Bay and the planned refit of the RFA Argus in 2013.
“Every project presents its own unique challenges. A&P Falmouth continue to be a trusted partner of choice for clients with complex requirements, both in the defence and commercial sectors.”