Offshore Support Vessel, MV Island Crown arrived in Devonport yesterday on her delivery voyage from Ulsteinvik, Norway. She will join the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and operate Uncrewed Surface Vehicles (USV) in support of mine countermeasures tasks around the UK and in European waters.
The Island Crown does not need to undergo significant conversion work other than the installation of military communications fit before starting in her new role and initially at least, will not be painted grey. She arrived in the UK still under a Norwegian flag but will be handed over shortly and subsequently raise the blue ensign although her new name has not yet been announced. Due to enter service in the spring, she will be based at Faslane, co-located with the First Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM1) which already operates autonomous boats under Project Wilton. The RN is at the cutting edge of uncrewed mine hunting and will be among the first navies to commission a dedicated support ship for off-board MCM systems.
The MoD purchased the ship from Island Offshore Management in Norway for £40 Million where she was employed as a Walk-to-Work (WTW) ship delivering personnel to oil, gas and wind installations. She also conducted crane work, supported subsea construction with ROVs and carried out logistic supply duties. The large heave-compensated WTW gangway system previously fitted on her port side has been removed but the long-reach and telescopic cranes have been retained.
Designed and built in Norway, she was completed in 2013. She is 96.8m in length with a beam of 20m and is fitted with a helideck and has accommodation for up to 100 people. Island Crown has a 561 sq metre working deck that is sheltered by high bulwarks – ideal for accommodating the various modules of the mine warfare mission system. This will include the containerised Portable Operation Center (POC) and the USVs that will operate from the ship. These include the Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) system, the Combined Influence Sweep (SWEEP) system and Medium Underwater Autonomous Vehicles (MAUVs). Depending on the task, the USVs can deploy sonar bodies, remote mine disposal UUVs or Coil Auxiliary Boats (CABs) for minesweeping.
It was confirmed in September last year that Block 2 of the RN’s Mine Hunting Capability (MHC) programme has been initiated and is funded to deliver up to six mission systems and three Logistics Support Vessels. These additional MCM support ships will operate further afield and with the draw-down of crewed MCMVs, at least one of the new LSVs is destined to be forward-deployed in the Gulf, releasing the LSD(A) (currently RFA Cardigan Bay) to return to its core amphibious role.
France is planning to build 8 SLAMF mother ships similar to the 12 ordered by Netherlands and Belgium. UK has funding for 3, each operating 2 remote systems. Is that it? Or are more planned? It doesn’t seem enough given the number of MCM hulls the RN could deploy even 10 years ago.
I assume this ship is the Offshore Support Vessel (OSV) mentioned in the Defence Equipment Plan 2022-2032.
Up to 4 Logistics Support Vessels (LSV) are also mentioned and it appears 3 are already funded.
The LSVs will probably be larger than this ship but the SLAMF mother ships are somewhat smaller.
RN has purchased 2 OSVs, one to be converted to a MROSS for cable/ pipeline etc protection and this one to act as an MCM mother ship. ” Logistics support vessel.” is not a very helpful title, could mean anything.
I do wonder why other countries have ordered dedicated mother ships to replace their minehunters and RN has chosen this solution.
£40m and in service in a few months might have something to do with it. Given we have a number of systems in service we probably already have some idea what would be required as a support vessel. The Dutch Belgian programme feels a bit ” cart before horse”
You’re right. The Belgians and Dutch are going to look at this and wonder why the hell they’ve gone down such an expensive route. Especially as French industry seems to be the main beneficiary.
The 12 ship contract was reported as €2b in 2019. It isn’t clear whether this includes the autonomous drones etc but it looks expensive compared to £40 m for quite a new ship with minimal conversion required.
I’m aware of the MROSS purchase but that ship has only ever been referred to as MROSS not an OSV.
The Defence Equipment Plan 2022-2032 specifically mentioned an MCM OSV that will “enable UK offshore operations” and up to 4 MCM LSVs that will “deliver a global MCM effect”.
I agree LSV is a bit vague but that is probably a good thing at this stage.
The LSVs will probably be larger than this ship but the SLAMF mother ships are somewhat smaller.
She looks freshly painted, very shipshape.
Can anyone explain the large blocked up aperture in the stern?
never noticed, but now yev pointed it out, aye it’s a strange one.
The article says the large WTW gangway was removed
I was referring to the stern of the ship next to the yellow ladder structure. The walk-to-work gangway was above the working deck.
Yes. It was an above deck telescopic tower and gantry shown in this pic , where the workers would transfer from the sea platform
At a guess, the vessel may have been involved in cable lay at some point- so had an opening in the stern level with the working deck so it could be paid out from a reel mounted on deck? I know they normally use dedicated cable lay vessels, but for a smaller job it may have been easier to cut a hole in the steel?
I know it’s silly superstition. I still feel uneasy about renaming a ship.
How about RFA Island Crown ?
I understand the goodness of the bulwark, and no need for moon pool.
But, why not purchase Topaz Tongaroa’s sister ship, Topaz Tiamat, for logistic commonality? Adding bulwark is easy, and operating two different OSV-type vessel will be a bit more complex than two hulls of the same type. Training commonality might also help to reduce operational burden…
Is it available? Web search indicates its on a multi year charter to Reachsea.
Thanks. I meant, “why not approach the industries with a requirement of TWO identical ship, from the beginning”. I could be “they did, but could not find any candidates”, I agree. But, did they tried?
Note New Zealand has a similar sized ship, HMNZS Manawabui, with moon-pool. Looks like there are always some vessels in the market.
With that criteria you would have created a sellers market and
most likely pushed the price up!
And it must be compared with the logistic cost increase. If it is cheaper even including it, it can be a good choice. I just want to know if it is so, or not.
Another vessel, Normand Jarl, was recently sold outside the offshore industry. It will be interesting to see where she ends up.
I maybe just being stupid but why is it not being painted grey? & are weapons to be fitted? Or are they simply to be used in safe areas & peacetime? If so what supports MCM during a conflict? Is this interim. Or so stand off not an issue?
At least MCMVs had 30mm, small calibre weapons & possibly Starstreak added & being much smaller this might have been sufficient.
These to me look like 30mm automatic guns minimum & really CIWS?
Yes, the Association of Grey Paint Manufacturers (AGPM) demand to know: why not grey?
The UK doesn’t do mine laying. The ship won’t attack anything and will only defuse situations and help save lives. So why paint it like a warship?
Generally as part of an organisation you adopt the uniform? Are the RFA on the vessel going to be wearing jeans and t-shirts?
Only protector due to being in a cold environment isn’t grey & ro ros don’t count as not RFA.
If you plan to take part in an amphibious operation or even fake one then generally you may need to clear minefields to allow LCUs, LCVPs as well as LPDs to conduct operations without being blown up. Several ships were damaged by mines in GW1
As the autonomous mine system is replacing traditional MCMVs which the navy just for a laugh painted grey. My point was that this doesn’t actually seem to replace the capability.
So what provides mine warfare or counter warfare in a war?
Actually France is planning to purchase 6 motherships and to purchase 8 unmanned mission systems.
The stated UK position appears to be 4 motherships (this purchase + 3 others) and 6 unmanned mission systems.
It’s 6 unmanned units to be purchased as part of block 2 , we already have 3 units, possibly 4 based at Faslane
A bit of web searching suggests Project WILTON operates the following:
2014 RNMB Hazard 11m*
(Original crewed trials vessel with a fully enclosed wheel house)
2018 RNMB Hussar 11m USV
(First uncrewed system including 3 towed Coil Auxiliary Boats)
2020 RNMB Harrier 11m USV
2020 RNMB Hebe 15m USV
(Larger vessel with on-board command and control facilities)
2020 RNMB Halcyon 11m USV
(This is a different vessel to the Thales/L3Harris USV Demonstrator Halcyon)
2022 RNMB Hydra 11m USV
These are all ATLAS Elektronik Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping Systems (ARCIMS)
* Unsure if RNMB Hazard has now been updated for uncrewed operation.
Couldn’t the former RFA Diligence have done the job?
Previously discussed on this forum. It may look similar but was fitted for a different task and is over 40 years old.
Looks like a tidy ship. Also, as a Norwegian built ship, likely to have a sauna on board! Will be welcome after clearing the approaches to Faslane for 12 hours.
Thats an inshore vessels job. This will likely be for open ocean areas where fibre optic cables are laid , roughly to the depth subs can reach
From the article “Due to enter service in the spring, she will be based at Faslane, co-located with the First Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM1) which already operates autonomous boats under Project Wilton.” I assumed that meant it’d be the comand vessel for the MCM teams at Faslane, but maybe I misunderstood- could be covering our contirbution to wider mine disposal across the North Atlantic?
Either way, a sauna will be well appreciated!
Different role, this has the deck space for the new MCM systems which may be double on this vessels, the size of the LSV’s talked about is currently unknown but may be smaller but with similar deck space.
Add a platform forward for a Phalanx CIWS or a DS30M Mark 2 system and she’s all set!
Also a couple of miniguns on each beam.
The concern was always the prospect of binning the Hunt’s and Sandown’s too quickly without any direct replacements.
A mix of 4-5 mother-ships bought off the shelf and converted as well as the flexibility of being able to deploy autonomous systems directly from land or via other surface vessels won’t be a terrible outcome.
Flavour of the month for say 5-8 years, become a tethered goat for cost cutters to ‘find’ and then listed for disposal
Why would we bother to design and build new mother ships…. Just buy second hand like these…… if we start designing new ships it would start getting resigned take years and end up like the Ajax fiasco…..
The MCM kit only needs a platform that can take the kit and get it into the area of operations and a Ship is better able to provide for the shipmates doing the job which is far better than trying to do it from shore too. Yes we will purchase second hand and provide the role far quicker and cheaper for the tax payer. I’m sure they will be able to clear the way as required better all round. MCM vessels are certainly not where you want to live for a long time, limited space.
Interesting, do you expect the proposed MCM Logistics Support Vessels to also be second hand purchases?
There’s been no indication of any design work for bespoke MCM mother-ships and little capacity in the UK shipbuilding industry right now to construct any. So yeah almost certainly second hand commercial vessels given minimal conversions.
Yes, but not very old (3 – 4 years max) and similar to those that support the rigs in the North Sea. They are there to support the manpower for the MCM teams and transport the kit. All far easiler with a ship that can look after 50 – 100 souls than setting up tents or seeking B&B ashore and can move the full kit in one go.
What are we looking at as far as crewing is concerned? How many RFA and how many Royal Navy?
The earlier article covering this ship and the similar sized MROSS purchase said the latter would have a RFA crew of 26 and up to 60 RN personnel.
I’m guessing the RN crews will come from decommissioned MCMs, but I wonder where the RFA crews will come from
Will also come in handy when deploying the submarine rescue unit,
Yes. Its more than a single rescue ‘ submersible’
Although UK designated vessel currently is Serco SD Northern River
Interesting. We need 7 more with at least two systems at least per hull. As this one is going to spend its time ‘defending’ (good grief) Faslane (Lord help us) perhaps this would be an opportunity for another dazzle camouflage paint job? Some nice earth tones or perhaps some purple in the scheme?
What are the big yellow ladders and associated large pipes for.? Asking as an interested amateur
Interesting article posted on Baird Maritime yesterday that relates to this topic: