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UK Charity Launches Effort to Build Ro/Pax Training Ship

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Image courtesy Cammell Laird

By The Maritime Executive 2019-09-09 21:28:48

In cooperation with the charity Britannia Maritime Aid, British shipbuilder Cammell Laird has helped launch an initiative for a new $185 million disaster relief / training ship. The ambitious scheme was officially launched Monday during the kickoff for London International Shipping Week 2019.

The relief ship's design is a variant of Cammell Laird’s latest ro/pax concept, which was developed in conjunction with ship designer Leadship and first unveiled at Nor-Shipping 2019. The firm says that the first-of-its-kind vessel would have commercial ro/pax capability, giving it more versatility than a one-off special-purpose ship. 

“Cammell Laird is proud to be supporting Britannia Maritime Aid in developing a design and build offer for a UK Aid and Training Ship. Working closely with the Leadship design house our commercial approach gave Britannia Maritime Aid confidence in their requirement trade-offs, procurement cost estimate and support cost estimate," said Tony Graham, Cammell Laird's COO. "This technical and cost due diligence underpins the Britannia Maritime Aid business case. Our commercial design ensures great value for money and protects the vessel’s resale value as a cutting-edge ro/pax."

BMA’s vessel would include a training center, landing craft, helicopters, drones, rough terrain vehicles, onboard medical facilities, briefing rooms, conference facilities, workshops and full mission bridge and engine simulators for trainees. The ship would be able to carry up to 6,000 tonnes of vehicles and aid supplies – more than ten times the capacity of current vessels used for this purpose.

The project would provide more training berths at a time when the British government plans to double the number of merchant navy officer cadets under its SMarT Plus initiative. BMA says that it would also create new jobs, boost Britain’s disaster relief capabilities and ease the strain of aid operations on the Royal Navy. The service maintains a disaster-relief presence in the Caribbean in the form of the amphib RFA Mounts Bay, an auxiliary logistics vessel which is deployed for humanitarian aid missions like the current relief effort in the Bahamas. 

The project has backing from two former First Sea Lords, the Lord West of Spithead and Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh. Others supporters include members of the Houses of Lords and Commons, ship designers Leadship, unions RMT and Nautilus International, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Merchant Navy Training Board the maritime charity London Trinity House and the Government of Barbados.

As well as supporting humanitarian aid missions in the Caribbean, the ship would provide sea training berths for the next generation of UK and Commonwealth officer cadets, rating apprentices and trainees in trades associated with aid and reconstruction. The vessel's mission set is similar to that of the training ships operated by merchant marine academies in the United States: America's federally-owned "school ships" are a part of the U.S. Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet, and they can be called up for disaster relief when needed.

“Having a dedicated vessel with a training and aid function is a first of its kind for the UK and would ease the pressure on the limited resources that the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary can provide," said BMA chairman Captain Kevin P. Slade. “It will be an innovative use of essential and finite funds, increasing the effectiveness of the UK's disaster relief work whilst also increasing the supply of British seafarers and supporting ocean advocacy."

BMA hopes to deliver its ship by 2024 and says that it will charter or buy suitable ships to run operations until its purpose-built ship is ready. It has started a crowdfunding campaign for initial costs and intends to raise long-term funding from the UK government, industry and the private sector.