HMS Ocean Membrane Bio Reactor

HMS Ocean is approaching the end of her upkeep period.

From an earlier Babcock press release;

Work to be undertaken includes over 60 upgrades.  These include the new 997 Medium Range Radar system; four 30mm Automated Small Calibre Gun Systems to replace existing 20mm guns (involving installation of over 20,000 metres of power and control cabling); a new fire detection system; the Defence Information Infrastructure (Future) (DII(F)) enabling information sharing and collaborative working across the Armed Forces and MoD; and the DNA(2) Command System – the ‘brain’ of the ship and central to its fighting capability against air and surface threats.

Additionally, significant mechanical improvements include two major system installations, including a first-of-class Membrane Bio-Reactor (MBR) system which treats waste water and sewage to permit discharge at sea, and a further first-of-class ballast water treatment system.  These will ensure the ship is compliant with new environmental legislation regarding treatment of ballast water and black and grey water discharges and able to operate anywhere in the world.

Other substantial work packages to be undertaken include major represervation work, and upgrades and improvements to living quarters including mess and recreational areas, cabins and bathrooms, as well as improvements to the laundry and sick bay complex, plus a full programme of deep maintenance

Instead of concentrating on the radar or shooty stuff, how about a look at that Membrane Bio Reactor?

The MBR has been supplied by Hamworthy, now a Wartisla company and is from the same family as installed on all the Type 45 destroyers and that to be (if not already) on the QE class aircraft carriers

Now that is what you call commonality!

A Membrane Bio Reactor is conceptually a very simple piece of equipment, it takes in grey and black water and turns it into clean water.

Membrane Bio Reactor HMS Ocean
Membrane Bio Reactor HMS Ocean

At a detailed engineering level, it is a whole lot more complicated.

Membrane Bio Reactor HMS Ocean
Membrane Bio Reactor HMS Ocean
Membrane Bio Reactor HMS Ocean
Membrane Bio Reactor HMS Ocean

Those on the Type 45 are installed in pairs, each with 6 membrane modules and able to process up to 100 cubic metres per day.

Membrane Bio Reactor Type 45
Membrane Bio Reactor Type 45
Membrane Bio Reactor Type 45
Membrane Bio Reactor Type 45

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May 29, 2014 6:31 am

It’s one of those systems/capabilities of a (war)ship that is easily overlooked, but can be the cause the same ship may be denied entry to a foreign port, thereby influencing deployability and overseas readiness (another reason is the double hull many nations and environmental treaty signatories demand of auxiliary tankers/support ships).

Transporting and dumping waste water and especially bacteria rife bilge water into ‘foreign’ seas may cause real and lasting harm to local fishing, and may even be more harmfull than dumping crude oil. As such, some countries demand insane compensation whenever especially a state-owned ship (read: naval warship, or maritime auxiliary with lucrative governmental compensations) make a simple 1-day port visit. A cash cow for local enterprising businesses to be sure.

I remember a certain African country which received a NATO frigate which needed to off-load properly packaged garbage and pre-treated waste water. The local governmental contracter provided a tanker truck to receive the waste and promised to dispose of it properly. Afterwards it was discovered the truck simply drove a few miles and dumped the collected waste water of several ships in a nearby river, contaminating the local fishing grounds. Gov-to-Gov compensations had to be paid afterwards, including clean-up and training and equipping of a proper port waste management operation.

May 29, 2014 7:20 am

Seems another ship that is due out of service in just a few years is receiving a major refit. Is this value for money if she will leave service in 2018. I really can’t see us getting a budget to keep her in Service until the early 2020’s and I can’t see any foreign buyer wanting her.

May 29, 2014 7:47 am


for even more commonality, it is being fitted to the T23s in place of the current vacuum tank set up, and has been selected for T26 (or is the current front runner, I can’t remember exactly where in the procurement decision process it is). I think the LPDs are getting it as well.

The good thing about it being fitted to T23s is it means they will always be IMO compliant. At the moment, they are fitted with a vacuum system and holding tanks. These can be discharged at sea, outside of the 12 mile limit, but not in ‘Special Areas’. In these areas, the effluent must be held, and then discharged ashore. This has obvious implications on endurance and persistence in carrying out ops in the littoral or a ‘Special Area’. As the areas include the Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Med, Baltic (and many others), fitting an MBR can have a significant impact on a ship’s ability to stay on task.

Poo isn’t sexy, like GTs and missiles, but it is important!

May 29, 2014 1:25 pm

An earlier post was regarding a water filter system to turn locally sourced water into drinkable water to reduce trucking in water at risk to attack/IED’s.
Could one of these units be used to pre-treat the waste from a FOB and pass it through such a filter to return it to drinkable standard. Although in desert regions once fluids are evaporated away in the form of perspiration/breathing it could act
1/ a way of reducing the environmental impact of a FOB
2/ extending the time in-between resupply runs
3/ providing a back up in the event of a Dien Bien Phu, Khe Sanh or Sangin