In fine weather off the South Coast of England on the 3rd of May, three RFA Vessels conducted various serials to trial new ships and their equipment intended to support the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
All four of the Tide class tankers are now in service and the RFA is developing its capabilities in preparation for supplying the logistic demands of the aircraft carriers that are heavier than the service has been used to. Seen sailing in formation, RFA Tidesurge, Tideforce and Fort Victoria are an impressive sight and a reminder of the large and modern replenishment ships the RFA now possess. During a series of evolutions, RFA Tideforce completed an abeam RAS trial and became the first of the class to pass all 3 commodities, F76 (Marine Diesel) F44 (Aviation fuel) and water from each of the 3 abeam Rigs.
Fort Vic is back
RFA Fort Victoria completed a £44 Million refit in Cammel Laird in November 2018 on time and on budget. The work is intended to keep her in service until 2025 when she will supposedly be replaced by one of the new First Fleet Solid Support Ships. 180 tonnes of steel were used to create a double bottom for the oil tanks intended to reduce the amount of fuel that could leak in the unlikely event the outer hull is breached. To avoid the expense of removing the ship’s port and starboard wing cargo tanks, they were converted to hold ballast water. This entailed the removal of fuel oil pipes and the installation of ballast pipework and new tank calibration equipment. The wing tanks were shot-blasted and painted and in conjunction, major modifications were made in the cargo pump room. Fort Vic is now compliant with MARPOL anti-pollution regulations for oil tankers, although her fuel capacity has been considerably reduced.
The bridge has been upgraded with modern navigation and ship control technology. This involved the complete removal of all navigational equipment, and machinery control and surveillance (MCAS) outstations, including all electrical cables. New decking was laid, and either new or refurbished equipment installed. The refrigerated cargo holds were given a major refurbishment, as was the ship’s galley. The ship’s entire hot and cold domestic freshwater system was removed and replaced with a total length of approximately 3.5 km of non-ferrous pipework. The refit also saw RFA Fort Victoria’s forward sewage plant upgraded.
The ship’s RAS decks and RAS winch decks were also refurbished and completely repainted, while the RAS winch cable trays were replaced and all electrical cabling, including high voltage cabling, inspected. The Hudson Reel cargo pipework was replaced, and a new Fast Rescue Craft davit installed to enable the launch and recovery of Pacific 24 rescue boats. Routine upkeep and refurbishment work was also undertaken, including overhauls of the main engines and generators, inspections, surveys, and an overhaul of ancillary and auxiliary equipment.
Fort Vic and has been regenerating ready to rejoin the fleet on active service. Although Fort Vic can provide fuel oil to other vessels, her primary role is the transfer of food and ammunition. During the trials, she successfully proved her heavy jackstay rig which has been modified to take greater loads and cope with the higher decks of the aircraft carriers.