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News

HMS Bulwark Returns To Active Service After Refit


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Babcock International Group, Marine & Technology Division
: 01 March, 2011  (Application Story)
Upgrade and maintenance programme successfully completed on HMS Bulwark amphibious landing craft by Babcock at the Devonport Royal Dockyard
HMS Bulwark Returns To Active Service After Refit
The amphibious landing ship HMS Bulwark has returned to the fleet after successfully completing sea trials following an 11 month support period, delivered on-time and in-budget. The upgrade and maintenance programme was undertaken by Babcock at Devonport Royal Dockyard. This was the ship’s first docking since being formally commissioned into the Royal Navy in April 2005 and the project team successfully met a number of significant challenges, including the severe adverse weather conditions over Christmas, to keep the programme on schedule.

The £30m support period (a contract awarded under the Surface Ship Support Alliance, the alliance between the MoD, Babcock and BAE Systems) has benefited from application of knowledge and experience gained on sister vessel HMS Albion, as a result of which a number of initiatives and improvements were introduced, and from close partnering between the MoD and Babcock including co-located and integrated project teams. This approach enabled efficiency and cost-effectiveness to be maximised throughout the docking period, to deliver optimum value for money and return Bulwark to the fleet on-schedule.

The 450,000 manhour support period has involved the overhaul of 1625 items of equipment, manufacture of 1557 items, and shipping of 398 tonnes of equipment on and off the ship. 215 hull valves have been removed and replaced; 93 Tanks opened, cleaned and surveyed; 21 miles of electrical cable installed; and 8,000 litres of paint applied to the ship’s outer bottom.

HMS Bulwark now has improved aviation facilities (the flight deck has the capacity to operate two heavy-lift Chinook helicopters simultaneously) and upgrades to the welldock, including full tactical night-vision capability by her landing craft and aircraft. Extensive improvements have also been carried out to the living quarters for the ship’s 380 sailors and marines, including bunk spaces, toilets, bathrooms and recreational areas, plus refurbishment of the main galley, laundry and commissariat.

Further, the ship’s communications equipment has been enhanced, high pressure salt water, drainage and sewage systems improved, and main propulsion system upgraded. Also included have been improvements to the machinery and magazine spaces, IT network capability, and defensive weapons upgrades, as well as replacement of the ship’s outer bottom anti-fouling paint with the new ultra sleek system improving fuel efficiency and speed through the water.

“A number of challenges have been addressed during the support period, including the addition of 16 alterations and additions during the project, and was completed within the same timeframe as Albion despite an additional 70,000 manhours involved,” Babcock project manager Mike Weeks points out. “Successes have included achievement of all key milestones, an excellent safety culture, the adoption of a single integrated plan, and efficiency improvements such as the dockside services contract arrangements, as well as an excellent partnering relationship.”

HMS Bulwark has now completed three weeks’ sea trials, and returns to duties as a fully prepared operational warship.

Captain Graeme Little, RN, OBE, Capital Ships-In Service Ships Team Leader and project lead said: “All involved in successful delivery of this project can rightfully feel proud of what they have achieved. HMS Bulwark is an essential element of the post Strategic Defence Security Review commitment to Amphibious and Littoral Manoeuvre capability and the challenge for the support community is now to establish Devonport as the Centre for Amphibious Support Excellence alongside the Amphibious Centre of Specialisation and, in doing so, optimising the support, materiel state and availability of amphibious platforms and surface manoeuvre craft. This will enable the MoD and industry to build on what has been achieved during this project, driving benefits and efficiencies into the future support business.”

Babcock Warships Director (Devonport), Chris Tomkins, said: “This has been a complex and challenging project, and an excellent achievement by the team. Close working and the implementation of true partnering values has played a vital part in the success, as has the implementation of our experience and ‘lessons learnt’ from Albion, and our amphibiosity expertise, which underlines Devonport as the Centre for Amphibious Support Excellence. We are delighted to be returning HMS Bulwark to the fleet on-time and in-budget, and fully equipped for her operational duties.”

Commanding Officer HMS Bulwark Captain Alex Burton said: “Through an open, engaging and strong partnership with Babcock, HMS Bulwark has successfully met her Fleet Date. The Docking Period presented a challenging mix of complexity, time management and detailed and intricate planning; all of which has been underpinned by an overarching desire to succeed from both Babcock and the Ship’s Company of HMS Bulwark. Acceptance back into the Fleet marks an important date for HMS Bulwark on her path towards regeneration and her future role as the Fleet Flagship in October this year.”
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