Winter 2012

Preparing frigates for service

In an important and unusual commission, James Fisher Marine Services has been assisting with the upgrade and preparations for sale of three ten-year-old offshore patrol vessels that have yet to see active service.

The three Nakhoda Ragam class multi-role light frigates were built at the Scotstoun shipyard on the river Clyde, and launched between 2001 and 2002. Equipped with a wide range of armaments, including Exocet and Seawolf missile systems and two triple torpedo tube installations, these F2000 corvettes are powered by four diesel engines delivering a total of over 30MW through two propellers. Approximately 95m overall length and 13m beam, they have a nominal crew compliment of 79, a displacement of 1940 tonnes and are capable of 30 knots.

Originally ordered for the Royal Brunei Navy as offshore patrol vessels, they were subsequently deemed surplus to requirement. For this reason contracts were placed with the lead contractor to maintain them and, with international shipping marine service partner and brokerage, Lürssen Logistics UK (LLUK), to manage the process of onward sale to an appropriate end use customer.

James Fisher enlisted to work on upgrade

Following the hand-over of responsibilities in 2007, each of the three vessels was transferred from Scotland under tow to the James Fisher Marine Services (JFMS) yard at Barrow-in- Furness. JFMS was contracted by LLUK to provide a temporary home port for the vessels and to support their on-going maintenance and preparation for sea trials.

John Alexander, contract manager of JFMS explains:

“We operate as part of a multi-disciplinary team together with colleagues from Lürssen Logistics UK. Initially the project was set up with a planned duration of just 6 months, effectively as a warm reactivation to enable a potential sale to a suitable navy. But our responsibilities have developed over time and, five years on, we are working ever closer in partnership with LLUK operating a fully serviceable marine base at the James Fisher yard at Barrow-in-Furness.”

The project team is made up a number of key personnel including a technical director and technical managers with an overall responsibility for the sale prospectus and major upgrade packages, and a project manager with a team to support daily operations and vessel availability to go to sea. The full team is responsible for a wide variety of operational aspects of the vessels, from undertaking all planned maintenance activities and defect rectification, through to potential customer sea demonstrations and acceptance testing.

Alexander continues:

“A key part of the challenge is in procurement and obsolescence management."

Despite the fact that they have yet to see operational naval service, the vessels are each now more than a decade from their original launch. The glue that holds the project together – and is one of its critical success factors – is the massive experience of the dedicated sea staff, technical managers, including weapons systems engineers and seaman specialists. Their competence and flexibility are what make the operational achievements possible, from the routine sea preparedness in Barrow-in Furness to voyage planning, which can be something of a fine art given the sometimes unforgiving weather in northern UK coastal waters.

Dry docking and hull maintenance

All vessels require on-going long-term hull and superstructure maintenance post launch, and this applies equally to a fleet that has yet to see service. The newest of the three vessels – originally named ‘Jerambak’ but known to the project team by its registration OPV30 – was scheduled for a routine six-week dry docking in the summer of 2012, to be undertaken at the dry dock of Milford Haven Ship Repairers on the Pembroke coast.

The vessel departed Barrow-in-Furness for Milford Haven at the end of August after a week of intensive crew preparation and training, including abandon ship drills, fire drills, search and rescue scenarios and many demonstrations of the vessel’s fast rescue craft. The training was witnessed and accepted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency – to whom routine communications and reports would be submitted whilst on passage – and voyage exemptions issued.

Voyage planning was interrupted by weather and the pilotage and entrance to dry dock were delayed for 24 hours. The opportunity was taken to disembark crew in Pembroke dock and await a suitable opportunity to enter Milford Haven Ship Repairers dry dock. This took place in early September when the full programme of dry dock maintenance could be undertaken, by a team in including JFMS personnel. This included a full slurry blast followed by the application of an entire new coating system to the hull using International Paints. In addition, the underwater valves and sacrificial anodes were replaced, and the propellers were polished, and a range of routine checks carried out including inspection of anchors and cables.

Ready for sale

With the full dry dock maintenance operation completed in early October to the satisfaction of all parties, OPV 30 has now returned to Barrow-in-Furness to continue preparation for customer demonstrations and sea trials. Partly thanks to the experienced input of the LLUK and JFMS teams, this vessel and its sister ships are now well on the way to finding their niche at last.

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