dijous, 20 de desembre de 2012

Britain: A Long-Term Contract to Support the Royal Fleet Auxiliary *

The UK Ministry of Defence’s concerted effort to reform its defense support operations continues. Overall, “future contracting for availability,” rather than paying for parts and labor hours, remains the overall direction. The Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, which provided a number of services in and around the Royal Navy’s major ports, wasoutsourced to Serco in a GBP 1 billion December 2007 contract.
Now, a deal that could last for 30 years is providing provide through-life support for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of Britain’s oilers, supply ships, and landing ships.
  • RFA: The Fleet
    • A New Support Model for the RFA
  • Contracts & Key Events
  • Additional Readings

RFA: The Fleet
RFA Largs Bay & Cruise ship
RFA Largs Bay -
now HMAS Choules
(click to view full)
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is a civilian-manned fleet, owned by the Ministry of Defense, which supports Royal Navy ships around the world with fuel, ammunition and supplies. The USA’s MSC uses a combination of civilians and Navy personnel, while RFA personnel are uniformed civil servants employed under the UK Merchant Shipping Act. They are structurally aligned with the Royal Navy and have a high level of specialist military training.
Britain’s RFA operates 6 Point Class 23,000t roll-on/roll-off sealift ships, operated under a Public/Private Finance Initiative.
Its stores/ dry-cargo ships include 2 Fort Rosalie Class 23,384t vessels, and the 33,675t RFA Fort Victoria. All 3 are expected to be retired in favor of 3 MARS Fleet Solid Stores ships, to be ordered over the next 10 years.
The 4 MARS Tide Class tankers ordered in 2012 will replace the RFA’s 2 current Rover Class 16,160t oilers, and the 37,874t RFA Orangeleaf. In truth, the 4 ships new ships are replacing 5, because another 2 Leaf Class oilers were retired between the original 2008 RFA support contract and the MARS Tide Class deal: Brambleleaf (2009) and Bayleaf (2011). Overall tonnage remains about the same.
The RFA’s 2 Wave Class 31,500t oilers will continue to serve for many more years, alongside the Tide Class.
The 28,000t RFA Argus was originally purchased as an aviation training ship, but following a refit, its main role these days is as a hospital ship.
When the new contract arrangements began, the RFA had 4 Bay Class 16,160t amphibious assault ships, built on the same base “Enforcer” design as the Dutch Rotterdam family and Spain’s Galicia Class. In 2011, the UK’s budget difficulties forced the RFA to sell Largs Bay to Australia very early in her service career, and the ship departed these support arrangements when it because HMAS Choules. The other 3 ships of class remain in the RFA.

A New Support Model for the RFA

RFA Bayleaf
RFA Bayleaf, 1982-2011
(click to view full)
The winning contractors under the new model will maintain ‘clusters’ of ships that are assigned according to their duties and capabilities. Their responsibilities involve the necessary refueling and refit work for the RFA vessels throughout their service lives. The Navy and Minister of Defence will work closely with the contractors to improve their understanding over time, and also help them forecast their workload farther into the future.
This kind of predictability is critical to the maritime industry, which often suffers when order swings and uncertainty make it difficult to maintain a core workforce of skilled and experienced people. This BBC quote is an excellent illustration of the phenomenon, which is not at all unique to Britain:
“Trainee engineer Fred Hawkey, who found work at the docks after a succession of short-term jobs, said: “Employment is a bit hit and miss down here. You may only get work for the summer so if it means I will have regular work for the foreseeable future that would be good.” “

Development & Updates

RFA Wave Ruler
RFA Wave Ruler
(click to view full)
Dec 3: Next phase. Britain’s Ministry of Defence issues the next phase of maintenance contracts. These are expected to be worth GBP 349 million, even though the fleet under care has declined from 16 ships to 13 ships. The oilers Brambeleaf and Bayleaf were retired, and Largs Bay was sold to Australia. The contract is touted as supporting around “800 jobs in the UK maritime sector”, and the companies involved are:
  • A&P Group Ltd’s ship repair facility in Falmouth
  • Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders Ltd. in Birkenhead
  • Hempel UK Ltd, based in Cwmbran
  • Lloyd’s Register, based in Bristol
  • Trimline Ltd, based in Southampton
*Article publicat a Defense Industry Daily. Tot i no ser tant coneguda com el Military Sealift Command nordamericà, la Royal Fleet Auxiliary compleix un vital paper en suport de la Royal Navy. Creiem important seguir-ne la evolució.

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