Initial Considerations

Potential roles and requirements of the Maritime Support System concept with examples of civilian ship designs being utilised for naval applications

Roles, Deployments and Costs

It is at this point that I have to come up with a name, something other than ‘not a frigate’, although I quite like to reinforce what it is, and isn’t. When I last looked at the margins of this concept I called them forward presence ships and then the Surface Security, Interdiction and Maritime Support System, SIMSS, others have called them auxiliary motherships.

I am not hung up on ships names but how about the Future Rapid Effects Ship or FRES?

Ha Ha, only joking…

For now, we can just call it a Maritime Support System (MSS)

In describing any design, the first task is to define the roles, requirements and operating environments that the ship will be immersed in.

That is the norm, but this proposal would seek to define a cost first and work everything back from there. Now this might seem ridiculous and I am aware that most will not agree with it but all the services, especially the seniors in that service, have to achieve financial credibility; changing the current perception of having champagne tastes and brown ale wallets, in hock to the defence industry that provides most of the jobs after leaving and lusting after shiny new equipment despite their service falling apart at the seams. It’s an unfair characterisation, but there is a kernel of truth in that perception.

Low cost is, therefore, the fundamental element in this proposal

Can one set a budget before even considering roles and deployments?

Who knows, but let’s start with an arbitrary target of £100m and see where we go.

It might be tempting to design the ships only for warm environments but we should also consider the colder environments of the South Atlantic and Arctic regions. The following diagram (which I have shamelessly nicked from BMT) defines a spectrum of cost, capability and my term, fightiness (remember, you heard it here first!) against which a naval vessel can be defined.


If we look at the diagram, MSS will, for the most part, operate in a threat environment that straddles safety and security roles whilst operating alone.

When operating inside the protective envelope of other combat ships such as T45/T26 (or coalition forces), or perhaps, with some additional equipment fitted, carry out these roles in a higher threat environment.

To labour the point, it is not a fighting vessel, but it might be involved in a wider fight, with some help from its bigger brothers.

Potential roles include;

  • Training and Defence Engagement
  • Salvage, Repair and Firefighting
  • Medical support
  • Experimentation and Systems Development
  • Survey
  • Mine Countermeasures
  • Ship to Shore Logistics Support
  • Maritime and Littoral Security
  • Special Forces Support
  • Disaster Relief
  • Submarine Rescue
  • Aviation Support

We need to be absolutely aware of the simple fact that such a design would not meet naval specifications, would lack a range of survivability features and in short, would not be a frigate, or even an OPV.

I will expand on these in the next section.

In summary, it is not a frigate, did I mention that

Form and Function

There are some fundamental things we need to think about at the start; does the ship need to be large or small, how should it be powered, the basic design, should it leverage existing designs or be custom-designed, is there any value in converted second-hand vessels and a big list of other things.

Off the peg or made to measure?

One of the secondary objectives of this proposal is to provide some specification and design experience for the UK naval construction community. We all know that feast and famine is a bad thing for maintaining skills in the design community so MSS would provide some experience. Specifying, designing and building the MSS is not the same as specifying, designing and building a complex warship like a frigate or destroyer, no one is saying that. But it would provide some relevant experience, which would not be a bad thing.

When taken in the round, it might actually be preferable to start the process from scratch, and design and build a completely new vessel. Being Penny wise and Pound foolish is an accusation often levelled at the idea of using merchant vessel conversions and honestly, I don’t know which would be the best, but this post makes the assumption that converting an existing design, or even an existing vessel, will produce a lower cost and quicker outcome.

There is also precedent for cargo ship conversions in the naval sector, some successful, some not.

Civilian to Military Conversion Examples

The Atlantic Conveyor had a less well-known sister ship that also took part in operations in the South Atlantic. The Atlantic Causeway was pressed into service in the same time frame but with a different set of modifications. Requisitioned on the 4th of May and taken to Devonport on the 6th she was converted to carry, operate and support helicopters. The conversion differed from the Atlantic Conveyor in having a large hangar forward and improved aviation fuel handling facilities

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Atlantic Causeway 1

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Atlantic Causeway 2

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Atlantic Causeway sailed on the 14th of May with 28 helicopters and arrived in the Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) the 27th of the same month, disembarking her aircraft and stores in San Carlos Water from 31 May.

From Hansard;

HC Deb 22 December 1983 vol 51 c424W 424W

Mr. Dalyell asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost of converting the Atlantic Causeway into a ship capable of carrying helicopters.

Mr. Lee The Atlantic Causeway was taken up from trade and converted to transport aircraft and stores during the Falklands emergency. She has since been restored and returned to her owners. The total cost of conversion and restoration was about £2 million.

During the operation, she received 4000 helicopter landings and refuelled aircraft 500 times, an impressive feat for conversion and restoration that cost £2million.

RFA Reliant started as the MV Astronomer, a container ship built in Poland in 1976. After the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor, the MoD requisitioned her for service. After unloading all cargo and containers, she was sailed to Devonport and converted to the helicopter forward support ship, sailing south on the 8th of June 1982. The six-day conversion included the installation of a landing pad, hangar, RAS gear, communications equipment, additional accommodation and self-defence equipment. In addition to three Chinook, Wessex and Sea King helicopters, the ship had its crew of 34 joined by 53 Royal Navy, 21 RAF and 8 Army personnel. During her time in the Falkland Islands, the MV Astronomer carried out all manner of aviation support, patrol and logistics activities. The one-thousandth landing was completed by a Royal Navy Sea King from HMS Invincible by the end of August.

The Falkland Islands deployment was a great success.

In December 1982, Astronomer was leased by the Ministry of Defence and underwent further conversion during which she was fitted with the US ARAPAHO system, a flight deck and hangar facilities for trials. She was later commissioned into the Royal Fleet Auxiliary as RFA RELIANT in late 1983. Cammell Laird and BAE completed the conversion which included two accommodation blocks (called the Village and the Hilton), power and ventilation, water purification and storage, communications, hangar and flight deck, generators and electrical distribution systems, and weapons and fuel storage. It was a much more comprehensive version of what was originally installed, cost £25m. The ship was tested with helicopters and Sea Harriers.

In 1984, RFA Reliant played a key role in the evacuation of British citizens from Lebanon, supporting the UK contingent (BRITFORLEB) of the UN Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon between 1982 and 1985, Operation HYPERION.

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MV Astronomer

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RFA Reliant 1

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RFA Reliant 3

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Despite this promise, the experiment was not a success. The ARAPAHO installation, on loan from the US Navy, was not of high quality and would not have fared well in South Atlantic conditions, even in the Mediterranean, there were problems. Design faults meant the system was not watertight and the landing pad surface was so coarse, it resulted in a great deal of aircraft tire damage. A short tour to the Falkland Islands was followed by decommissioning of the ARAPAHO equipment and sales of the vessel back to the MoD. She ran aground in 1995 and was scrapped at Alang, India, 1998.

Contender Bezant was utilised as an aircraft transport, ferrying helicopters and Harriers south to the Falkland Islands.

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MV Contender Bezant 1

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MV Contender Bezant 2

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Following purchase by the MoD in 1985 for £13million she was converted to an aviation training ship at the shipyard of Harland & Wolff, Belfast, with the addition of extended accommodation, a flight deck, aircraft lifts and naval radar and communications suites. A Primary Casualty Receiving Facility was added before Argus was sent to participate in the 1991 Gulf War.  Another role of RFA Argus is that of RORO vehicle transport with vehicles carried in the hangar and on the flight deck, a role she performed in support of United Nations operations in the former Yugoslavia.  During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Argus was again present in the Persian Gulf as an offshore hospital for coalition troops, earning the nickname “BUPA Baghdad”.

Most famously, RFA Argus participated in OP GRITROCK, the UK’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, and of course, a star turn in the Brad Pitt film, World War Z.

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RFA Argus World War Z

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RFA Diligence is another veteran of 1982, taken up from trade as the MV Stena Inspector. After providing extensive support to the task force she was retained by the MoD in 1983 and additional forward repair facilities added. She received an extensive refit in 2007.

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RFA Dilligence 1

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RFA Dilligence 2

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RFA Dilligence 3

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RFA Diligence and Argus have given the UK sterling service.

The Malaysian Navy converted the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC) Bunga Mas Lima into an auxiliary patrol ship, equipped with a helicopter pad and hangar, small boat handling systems and personnel accommodation for seventy.

Bunga Mas Lima

The Bunga Mas Lima (BM5) has achieved some success in the counter-piracy role. Another vessel, the Bunga Mas Enam (BM6), has also been converted, rescuing the MT Bunga Laurel from Somali pirates in 2013. Both vessels are owned and crewed by MISC but the security personnel and aircrew are from the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF).

The Malaysian MoD has published an excellent overview of OP FAJAR, their efforts to combat pirate activity in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, click here to read.

After what seemed like an age, the replacement for HMS Endurance (Antarctic Patrol Ship) was announced in 2001. The name HMS Protector has previously been used for a number of ships but the last was also an Antarctic Patrol Vessel. The replacement was, and is, polar research and subsea support vessel called MV Polarbjørn (Polar Bear).

MV Polarbjørn

The Polar Bear was a mere 10 years old at the time, smaller than the Endurance and without a helicopter hangar. She was owned by CG Rieber Shipping, previously operating on the spot market.

To quote the CG Rieber website;

The ‘Polarbjørn’ is purpose-built for undertaking both long duration Antarctic expeditions, and offshore subsea support duties.  With her large public areas and accommodation capacities, helicopter deck and DP2 class, the vessel is well suited for undertaking flotel- and base ship functions on offshore fields and other operations. The vessel’s large deck areas and cargo holds offers ‘unlimited’ storage capacity for ROV and related equipment. The ship’s 50-ton knuckle-boom crane and the A-frame offers efficient solutions for handling equipment over the side and over the stern.

CG Rieber also operates the research vessel, the RRS Ernest Shackleton, currently on lease to the British Antarctic Survey.

The ship’s refit included the removal and repositioning of the flight deck from the bridge roof to the stern, the installation of a multi-beam echo sounder survey system, a complete overhaul of the main engines and gearboxes, and military communications equipment. As can be seen from the images, the stern A-frame and large knuckle boom crane were retained. In later images, the A-frame has been removed and a Vestdavit HN-1000 two-point davit fitted. This is used for a Mustang Marine (now Mainstay Marine) survey boat, James Caird IV, similar to those carried by the Echo class survey vessels. She also carries an Alnmaritec landing craft.

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Ice Patrol Vessel HMS Protector in the Antarctic

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HMS Protector 2

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James Caird IV

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HMS Protector is also equipped with survey motor boat, Pacific 22 rigid inflatable boats, landing craft, three all-terrain vehicles and three quad bikes, complete with trailers.

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) also purchased a similar vessel, the Skandi Bergen, for just under £64 million. She was renamed the Ocean Shield and served until handed over to the Australian Border Force.

An unusual hybrid approach was taken by the Royal New Zealand Navy with the Multi-Role Vessel (MRV) HMNZS Canterbury. She is not a conversion, but a new build based on an Irish Sea ferry called the Ben-My-Chree. Construction was a relatively modest £60 million but doubts about seaworthiness were soon confirmed and a series of modifications were made to address them, these costing approximately £40 million.

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[/tab] [tab title=”HMNZS Canterbury Video 1″]

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The latest civil to military conversion is the MV Cragside;

Maersk Line Ltd., Norfolk, Va., is being awarded a $73,677,038 firm-fixed-price contract for the time charter of one U.S.-flagged, twin-shaft vessel, which shall function as a maritime support vessel.  This contract includes four 12-month option periods, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $143,149,058.  Work will be performed at sea worldwide, and is expected to be completed November 2014.  If all options are exercised, work will continue through October 2018.  Working capital contract funds in the amount of $73,677,038 are obligated for fiscal 2014, and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  This contract was competitively procured with over 200 proposals solicited via a solicitation posted to the Military Sealift Command and Federal Business Opportunities websites, with 13 offers received.  The Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00033-14-C-2015).

Military Sealift Command (MSC) requests a U.S. flagged vessel which shall function as a Maritime Support Vessel (MSV). The vessel shall serve host to fifty (50) Sponsor personnel with the ability to surge to an additional one hundred and fifty-seven (157) support personnel, for a total of two hundred and seven (207) Sponsor personnel, within twenty-four (24) hour notice.

The vessel shall support launch, recovery, refuelling, and resupply of small crafts, provide organic force protection and perform stowing, transport, launch/recovery, re-fueling of manned and unmanned rotary-wing aircraft.

The vessel shall provide equipment stowage, messing, berthing, administrative/operational space, maintenance space, emergency towing, and logistics services in support of operations. The Contractor shall independently operate all deck equipment to include the craft handling/launching systems.

There were many more, covering communications, accommodation, FLIR systems, diver support facilities, maintenance spaces, weapon mounts, security cameras and a jet ski launch and recovery facility (no, honestly). All good stuff, but what caught my eye was the aviation requirement, apart from the requirement of the workout rooms to have four 50″ TV’s!

The flight deck…

C-3.14 Flight Deck. The Contractor shall provide helicopter facilities with the ability to simultaneously launch/recover two (2) MH-60 class or one (1) CH-53E class helicopter with clear, unobstructed vertical airspace. Helicopter facilities shall comply with the requirements of US Coast Guard Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No. 9-81 for day and night landings with instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) for the following aircraft: MH6, AH6, MH47G, MH60K, MH60L, MH60M, UH60L, CH47 D-F, OH58D, AH64 A-D, MV/CV 22, HH60H, HH60J-T, SH60 B-F, MH60R, MH60S, and the MH53E.

And the hangar

C-3.14.1 Hangar. The Contractor shall provide a hangar facility, capable of being NAVAIR certified, with easy access to the flight deck. Hangar shall be capable of housing two (2) MH-60 class helicopters with main rotor folded, refueling probe installed, and tail rotor unfolded in flyable condition (30’W x 75’L x 26’H), as well as 4 (15′ x 5′) air vehicles, GFE yellow gear, spare parts and space to conduct routine required maintenance. The hangar shall be of sufficient size to accommodate two (2) MH-60 class helicopters.

That’s a big flight deck and a pretty big hangar.

The Cragside is a Flensburger RORO design, not dissimilar to the Point class strategic RORO vessels in service with the UK

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MV Cragside 1

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This is the first time the US has contracted for a dedicated Maritime Support Vessel (MSV) but has used various vessels in the past in a similar role, especially for special-forces support. The 220ft Edison Chouest C-Champion for example. The C-Champion cost the princely sum of $7m to convert and less than $10m per year to run. The feedback was reportedly very good and the C-Champion operated in the role for many years although the lack of aviation facilities was recognised as a shortcoming.

As can be seen, there is a history of civilian to naval conversions, this is not anything new.

Some have been better than others, however, but I think the fundamental concept, is worthy of exploring further.

Indeed, with the surprise withdrawal of RFA Diligence in August 2106, a proposal from Damen might be worthy of consideration for a more modern and lower-cost alternative.

Damen Shipyards Group has developed a committed response to the increasing number of laid up Platform Supply Vessels (PSVs) resulting from the current predicament facing the offshore oil and gas industry. The Dutch company’s solution involves converting idle PSVs into vessels capable of taking on roles in alternative sectors such as aquaculture, shipping and defence.

The situation that the offshore oil and gas industry is experiencing is having serious consequences throughout the sector. Compounding factors include historically low oil prices, halted exploration projects and reduced production. This vicious circle is completed by a substantial drop in support vessel day rates.

Damen has a solution to get these vessels active and profitable once again. “Our design teams have come up with workable ideas across several industries. For example, we can convert a laid up PSV into a profitable Container Feeder or, for naval operations, a Logistic Support Vessel,” informs Damen Sales Manager Remko Hottentot. “The possibilities are numerous. It will also be possible to transform a PSV into an accommodation and O&M vessel”

The ship conversion know-how stems from Damen’s worldwide network of fifteen repair and conversion yards. “With a strong reputation for engineering, craftsmanship and project management skills, Damen’s conversion teams are highly experienced in giving vessels a new lease of life, while staying on schedule and on budget,” states Mr Hottentott.

This is a time-sensitive offer, whilst the downturn in the offshore market may be sustained, the general way of these things is cyclical.

The image below shows a live fish carrier conversion.

Damen Live_Fish_Carrier

This is a viable option.

Barriers and Advantages/Disadvantages

Clearly, there are many good, and not so good, examples of naval forces making use of civilian designs or converting civilian vessels, those above are just a handful of examples.

The RFA Argus conversion was not cheap, MV astronomer was a success, followed up with an RFA Reliant failure, and HMNZS Canterbury probably the less said about that the better. But look at HMS Protector, RFA Diligence, Atlantic Causeway and the Bunga Mas sisters, undoubted successes. The success or failure of MV Cragside remains to be seen but it certainly looks promising.

The current regulatory and risk regime is very different from the eighties and expectations of accommodation, a world apart. Just lashing a handful of ISO containers to the deck and calling them home is not going to be acceptable. This means that conversions need much more attention to detail and reference to an increasing regulatory burden, or a higher overhead. Compliance is not a luxury or gold plating, it is the law, but it makes any conversion potentially more expensive than might be imagined.

In a depressed market, pretty much any type of vessel is available on the second-hand market, but it is obvious that owners will want to offload their least productive or cheap to run ships first. Vessels with the latest in economic power and propulsion systems will be held on to the last for example, likewise, those that are flexible and can be used in different markets. There is a danger in shopping in the second-hand market that one ends up spending more on running and maintenance costs, regardless of the cost of compliance with the latest regulations and standards.

So, we should be very clear, buying second hand and converting is not without its pitfalls, and potentially, not cheap either. But, ships are available right now, are cheap, and in the next few years, will become increasingly available and increasingly cheap.

If there is a depressed market in the shipping industry, there is also a depressed market in the shipping construction industry. Striking whilst the iron is hot, taking advantage of market conditions and perhaps, bringing forward replacement plans may not be a bad thing.

This could mean actually contracting for a new build ‘sea frame’ and then converting back in the UK. By having some control of the design, the amount of conversion could be minimised. Instead of ripping the guts out of some ancient ship ready for the breakers, we buy one of these;

Ford Transit

Obviously, this is a metaphor!

The point is, though, the amount of design change is kept to a minimum, economies of scale and familiarity at the shipbuilders, maximised, costs reduced.

For the UK, RFA Diligence and RFA Argus will need replacing, HMS Protector likewise. But none in any particular hurry. There is also the longer-term survey and mines countermeasure fleet replacement programme, but this is even further off than Argus and Diligence.

So there is no immediate need to fill with a merchant conversion, which makes much of this proposal, somewhat moot, but like many of these proposals, they are designed to promote discussion.

If we are going to look into the civilian market, what vessel designs are the most appropriate?

Donor Vessel

Ship Brokers

There may also be some potential to establish a ship conversion rather than new-build approach, the current economic situation, especially in the petrochemical exploration and production industry, means the second market has many vessels with owners keen to sell, it is a buyers-market. It might not be as aesthetically neat and tidy but using second-hand vessels really can drive the cost down.

A few examples below;

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MV Deborah / BBC Mexico, 100m long container ship built in 2001, currently being sold for $2.5 million

MV Deborah

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MV Clipper Marlene, 143m ice class container ship built in 2001, currently on offer $5.2 million

MV Clipper

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MV Rimeo, 135m container ship, currently on offer for $1.6 million

MV Rimeo

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MV Antares, 157m RORO with over 2000 lane metres, built in 1988 and currently on offer for $6.8 million

MV Antares

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MV Dodo, 130m RORO, $2 million wanted

MV Dodo

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81m Platform Supply Vessel, built in 1979 and on sale for £1.5 million

81m PSV

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60m Offshore Support Vessel, built in 2008 and on sale for £3.6 million

60m OSV

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These are just a semi-random selection of ships available, newer DP2 vessels are available, any flavour of RORO, container, tanker or general cargo ships, likewise. They would have to be inspected, transported, faults rectified, modifications made, re-inspected and accepted into service but when your starting point is between one and ten million Pounds, it is easy to see the attraction of dabbling in the second-hand market.

Ship Builders

Depending on the amount of change needed, it may be just as quick and simple to start from scratch.

Typical designs might include RORO or offshore supply/construction vessels.

For many, large = expensive and small = cheap, but in many ways, it is the reverse.

The kinds of roles envisaged for MSS, size delivers capacity and flexibility.

Having a large ship means plenty of space for payloads but if the draught of the ship is considerable, getting close inshore becomes a problem. I think this could be compensated by its ability to operate a decent number of small craft. Small craft in the MSS world does not be an 8m RHIB either, 20m patrol craft, landing craft, Mexeflote’s, USV’s and workboats should all within its ability.

The type of donorship could also have a large impact on functionality.

A container ship with a cellular guide hold will likely to be much harder to convert and be much less useful than a RORO ship. An offshore supply vessel might also be useful if a large clear deck area is needed. Superstructure forward, mid or aft RORO designs will also have pros and cons. RORO’s also tend to have a great deal of focus on damaged stability and fire control.

A couple of potential donor vessel types spring to mind, the offshore support vessel and RORO vessel.

Offshore Support

The offshore industry has evolved a number of specialised types of vessel, based on the same fundamental shape. The main types are described below;

Platform Supply Vessel (PSV); the most basic type of offshore support vessel, generally used for transporting cargo to and from offshore facilities, containers and liquids such as drilling mud or fuel being the most common. Underneath the large clear deck are usually a number of tanks used for liquid cargo. The Fast Supply Intervention variant tends to specialise on high speeds crew transfer with lower cargo capacity.

Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS); these are based on the same basic platform supply vessel design but also have line and deep-sea anchor handling equipment, winches, cranes and stern rollers. They are also equipped for deepwater towing and rescue and usually have extremely powerful engines and specialised cranes and automated handling equipment.

Multipurpose Support Vessel; this is a bit of a catch-all term, there are a number of specialist subdivisions. Diving support vessels will have extensive decompression and diver systems, aviation and station keeping equipment. Construction vessels usually have powerful heave compensated cranes and the highest levels of redundant station keeping systems. Remote Operating Vehicles are usually operated from large moon pools. Well Intervention and Stimulation vessels are used to maintain and maximise production from seabed oil and gas wellheads.

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Platform Supply Vessel

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Seismic Survey

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The most basic PSV’s can be obtained for between £25 million and £30 million but as complexity grows, cost also rises. Active Heave Compensating cranes, moon pools, diver decompression systems, pipe storage carousels, remotely operating vehicle handling and high levels of crew accommodation ratchet up the costs. There are naval and coastguard vessels based on this basic design, the Turkish submarine rescue tender for example. No stranger to innovation, the Norwegian armed forces (Coastguard in this case) have taken a Rolls Royce UT512 design for their Harstad vessel. Iceland followed suit with the ICGV Þór and India is also taking delivery of Rolls Royce UT517 design coastguard vessels. Ulstein is also offering an X-Bow type design, the SX116.

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£30m Vard 1 105

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£32m Vard-to-build-OSV-for-Island-Offshore-

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£36m Olympic

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£50m IMR-vessel-3D

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£62m Havyard-to-Build-Subsea-Vessel-for-International-Client-480x296

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£90m ST-259-design

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£97m diamond

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£104m VARD 3 07

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Roll On Roll Off (RORO)

Like the offshore support vessel family, there are a number of variations in the RORO vessel sector.

ROPAX; RORO and passenger, perhaps most used in the short sea crossing routes with accommodation for cars/trucks, foot and car passengers. The image below shows a ROPAX design from Flensburger for Caledonian MacBrayne, built at a cost of £43 million. They are usually equipped with stern and aft ramps and extensive passenger facilities.

PCC/PCTC; Pure Car Carrier and Pure Car Truck Carrier are specialised vessels that are designed to carry new vehicles. They have close spaced decks to maximise carrying capacity.

CONRO; a CONRO combines container and RORO cargo, the Atlantic Conveyor was a CONRO and the Atlantic Conveyor Line continue to specialise in this type of vessel. The upper deck is fitted with container guides and the lower decks, used for RORO cargo. Open deck conventional RORO vessels can also usually accommodate containers and reefer containers on their upper deck.

RORO/LOLO; In addition to RORO vehicle decks, the LOLO part of the combination adds high capacity cranes for outsize or hazardous cargo, in addition to containers. Technically, the Point Class Strategic RORO vessels are RORO/LOLO vessels as they can self-load using a deck crane.

RORO; the classic RORO, used mainly for vehicles and trailers, the trailers can also be substituted for cassettes or devices used specifically for certain cargo types, bananas and paper for example. They can have their superstructure forward, aft or at a midpoint. The superstructure usually contains accommodation for drivers and other passengers but in most designs, this is relatively limited, as drivers do not travel usually internationally.

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ROPAX Vessel

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Bore Sea

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The MV Bore Song, shown above, is sister to the MV Bore Sea. Bore actually call these the RoFlex design. The pair were built for less than £80m by Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (same as some of the Points) and designed to carry trailers, containers and general cargo on the weather deck. They have a normal speed of 19 knots, are 195.4m long, 26.20m wide, 7m draught and have 2,863 lane metres on three decks (weather 1,236m, main 1,078m and lower, 549m). Both have a bow and stern thrusters and powered by a single 12,000kW diesel engine, fuel consumption is approximately 36 tonnes per day with enough fuel carried for 9,500 nautical miles at cruising speed. The weather deck can be accessed from below, or containers simply lifted on. Both the lower and main deck can be subdivided with hoistable car decks. An interesting feature is the use of a shaft generator, click here to read more.

The video shows the tremendous flexibility of this type of RORO vessel.

The Stena Trader shown below is an interesting vessel. An RPOAX type built in 2006, with accommodation for 300 passengers (in 100 cabins) and a top speed of 22 knots. She was originally used on North Sea routes, purchased for £75 million, with her sister, the MV Highlanders. In 2011 she leased to Marine Atlantic for the Canadian market. Part of this was a conversion process which shortened the ship by 12m in order to facilitate docking at Channel-Port aux Basques. She was purchased for £50 million in 2015 and renamed the MV Blue Puttees.

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Stena Trader 3

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Stena Trader 1

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Stena Trader 2

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Blue Putees 1

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It has probably not escaped anyone, but the Stena Trader looks something like a Bay class LSD(A), without the well dock.


There is obviously a fairly good history of civilian to naval conversions and naval vessel designs that have their roots in civilian vessels.

Whether it actually makes better sense to buy second hand and convert, start with a new build civilian vessel and convert, or simply start from scratch with naval design and a new build is not obvious.

The costs of conversion will depend heavily upon class and regulatory compliance, i.e. the law, the scope of the conversion and state of the donor’s vessel. A lash-up during wartime is very different from peacetime, with its attendant risk and litigation environment.

The actual determinant factors would find their home on a spreadsheet, and it is there where the answer would be found, so I make no claim on what that would be.

But moving forward, and as a basis for discussion, the next part of the series will make an assumption that it is worthwhile to either convert or start with a civilian design and examine roles, modules and other considerations for such a vessel.

Table of Contents

wsd-600-psv Introduction
hms-protector Part 1 – Examples and Initial Considerations
Wildcat Part 2 – Roles and Modules
1981-custom-platform-supply-vessel--2 Part 3 – MSS (Small) – Platform Supply Vessel Conversion
Offshore Construction Part 4 – MSS (Medium) – Offshore Construction Vessel Derivative
rolldock Part 5 – MSS (Large) – Multilift Vessel
CIEWS Phalanx Part 6 – Climbing the Fighty Ladder
Ulstein PSV Summary
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February 15, 2016 12:52 pm


As always a good example of your excellent research skills. I’ll stop there…

shark bait
February 15, 2016 4:46 pm

I like the idea, I think this type of vessel has proved to have an effect that is disproportionate to the cost, and as long as its clear they are not a warship, that effect is very valuable.

HMS Protector for example, is going where the Royal Navy hasn\’t been for many years, I could advocate more of her type, a long range robust patrol ship. Perhaps tie it in with a HMS Scott replacement for some sneaky polar \’reasearch\’.

Argus too has proved to be a very useful asset to the UK. I have my own concept for an Argus replacement, as a hybrid auxiliary LPH, for an interim step after ocean is gone, again based off a commercial hull, using the released point class as a base.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
February 15, 2016 5:16 pm

TD I am looking forward to part 2.

The nagging doubt is the tradition in the RN of attacking even when out gunned, HMS Rawalpindi a converted passenger liner, for example, attacked two of the most powerful German warships, the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The basic facts are on Wiki 238 men died.

February 15, 2016 7:47 pm


As you know I am a a big fan of the Karel Doorman JSS of the Dutch Navy I would really like to see the RN buy 7 of these to provide all the flexibility we require.

They have good solid stores and fuel capability.
They have RORO (and I am sure could be converted to LPD if required
They can take 6 Merlins or 2 Chinook in their hanger.
They are a military design.
good manning levels to operate

I see these providing the mothership asset for the MHVC operations using Atlas ARCIMs and also amphibious capability both as a small helicopter carrier and by have 20 or so CB90’s in the hold ready to deploy. Massively versatile ship, just what the RN needs.

These can be configured for mothership, hospital, helicopter carrier, Stores etc etc….

No brainer for me

February 15, 2016 7:50 pm

We could also leverage our contract with the koreans and purchase another 4 Tides as well as the 7 Doorman class (based on the Tide hull of course and really get value for money.

Seems to me the Tides are a good deal and a good product. 11 ships ordered between now and 2040 can’t be too much of a stretch surely.

stephen duckworth
February 16, 2016 12:05 am

Perhaps something reasonably small to keep initial and running cost down could be considered. The MV Delta Mariner at 95m long by 25m beam but drawing only 2.4m FLT could fit the bill .Being very shallow drafted it can navigate rivers or pass through shallows even the Rivers would steer clear of. A specialist RoRo to carry Delta rocket sections from the manufacturing plant inland in Alabama to Vandenberg AFB California or Cape Canaveral Florida with each load of over a billion USD in value it is very well built recently taking out almost undamaged to itself a 100m section of a bridge over the River Tennessee.
The upper deck could be lowered somewhat and strengthen to take Chinooks or Super Stallions to keep the centre of gravity the same with a deck lift into the cargo area below. A few areas could receive addition strengthening and services for future kit.Just a thought.
comment image
What it carries.

The Other Chris
February 16, 2016 10:56 am

As an aside, been mentioned before but may be of interest to new readers, the HSC Manannan fast catamaran seen in the background of a couple of the Ben-my-Chree video’s is the former USS Joint Venture (HSV-X1).

February 16, 2016 2:36 pm

I must admit that I fancied a HMNZS Canterbury for the RN. Then I learned of its seakeeping problems in rough weather. To my untrained eye, the bow seems to short. Make it longer & more pointy & the seakeeping should improve. Also allows room for a proper gun. Before people moan about the cost, a BAE-Bofors Mk 110 57mm gun costs the USN $7.2 million each. If you are spending £60-100 million on the ship, then an extra £5 million to make it more fighty & therefore more useful, doues not seem a bad idea to me, given how few escorts the RN now has.

February 16, 2016 2:37 pm

Sorry lost an 0, should read “bow seems too short”.

February 16, 2016 4:14 pm

Interesting topic. Starting from cost is not bad. Anyway cost shall be one of the requirements, because it defines the number of units to be purchased.
Looking forward to see “Part 2”.

February 16, 2016 4:27 pm

RNZNS Canterbury issue is well documented in RNZN web (though I couldn’t find it right now). The problems was the too shaky response of the ship. The most problematic was that the propellers come out of water eventually in bad weather, which can cause damage to their main engines, and with safety circuits the engine suddenly stops. Another issue was the RHIB davit was too low, causing a death of a sailer.

The lessons is that, Merchant ship can just stop operation and hide in some port in bad weather, but military operation do not.

If TD is basing his idea on big ships, or ocean supply ship for oil rigs, the same problem may not occur.

But, another RNZN lesson is from Charls Upham. I think you shall read it on the web. Empty merchant vessels do not have good sea-keeping. To keep it sea worthy, you sometime need lots of ballast (as HMS Argus did).

I am not expert here, so I just stop here, simply sharing what I’ve read in RNZN webs and navy-news and Canterbury reports.

February 16, 2016 5:14 pm


No. Unless you get paid by the comment, in which case this thread may well be your retirement plan…!

February 16, 2016 8:22 pm

Hartley and Donald,

Yes the Canterbury has a laundry list of issues. To their credit the Kiwis are working their way through them. But it’s been an effort (TBH, after all the talk about Absalon this and Absalon that back during the C1/2/3 planning phase, the RNZN are a navy that actually could have benefitted greatly from buying a pair to replace their Anzac-class, would’ve fit their needs to a T without the Canterbury white elephant hunt.)


Cheek :)


The Karel Doorman is a great design. They should buy it to replace the Forts, get four built, and since it can handle a pretty large modular hospital (in addition to its decent integral medical capabilities) in the cargo hold, that gets the BUPA Baghdad replacement sorted in the process. That would at maximum effort (given the generally greater ability to surge “off duty” RFA ships than RN ones) allow one for each future carrier group, one available for HADR, and one as hospital ship. I’m less convinced that it is the best solution for some of these other roles. If you had an additional ship or two escort it could fill a role like the old French “training cruiser” Jeanne d’Arc: a dirty great helicopter platform with lots of accommodation to supervise a concerted drug/piracy interdiction operation. But that would be a specific fixed-term assignment, not a generalised need. The real crux of the matter is these separate programs running for Hunt MCMV replacement and the Type 31. Those are capacities that do require a lower-end warship that’s still a warship (rather than a beautifully useful auxiliary like Karel Doorman — really, buy four while the getting’s good.) Question is what sort of warship and is it possible to make the two programs into one, given the decreasing daylight for the service to propose new R&D and big spends?

shark bait
February 17, 2016 9:52 am

, The Karel Doorman is certainly an interesting design, but I am not yet convinced it is a great design. There has been quite a few indications that the Dutch aren’t entirely with their big new platform, on account of being a jack of all trades, master of none.

I am usually ruthless in the search for commonality and multi-role, however I think the Karel Doorman may have gone a step too far. Rather than being multi-role is it trying to be everything-role? which has led to many compromises? There is definitely a point where multi-role stops being more efficient, and instead a separate platform would be more useful, especially for large navies like the Royal Navy.

I would worry about using the Karel Doorman as a replacement for the forts. Their main task will be filling the huge logistical footprint left by the carriers, and they really need to be optimized for this role so our carrier operations are efficient and affordable. I don’t believe a Karel Doorman would achieve that, there are just a few too many compromises.

That being said the Karel Doorman is still a very interesting design, and I think it would be wise to adopt some of its features, and merge them into a more traditional supply slip. Big aviation facilities, RORO and steel beach could all be added to a supply ship fairly non-invasively, which would certainly add functionality to the platform, and bring it closer to the sea base concept once envisaged by the MARS programme.

I think it is important to start of will a supply ship and then add a few other features, because that is first and foremost what we need it to do. Not start with a frigate and add supply features.

shark bait
February 17, 2016 9:58 am

@Donald, I agree.

Where as many commercial vessels may have attractive features, especially RORO vessels, they are just not built to preform well in all environments, which is a capability a naval vessels really needs.

However Platform Supply Vessels are very different, most are built to a high standards, and unlike ferry\’s, are built to thrive in unpleasant open ocean conditions. I think using a PSV as a donor platform would be acceptable and have many advantages as a robust adaptable platform. A ferry I don\’t think so.

shark bait
February 17, 2016 10:06 am

Another example of a Platform Supply Vessels conversion is the VN Partisan used by our french cousins. They added a flight deck and use it for aviation training, interdiction at sea training even ASW training. Seems like a vessel with great utility at little cost, and easy to see how additional roles could be added.

A demonstration of the flexibility afforded by there types of platform. It is definitely something we should explore.

February 17, 2016 4:26 pm

Who are the vessels for? The RN or the RFA? Going out to ship brokers and buying ex civy ships for the Royal Navy will stir up exactly the same issues that the RN had with HMS Endurance and in time I fear with HMS Protector.

An ex civy ship operated by the Royal Navy will be a unique beast with its own maintenance and support requirements as specified by the original buyer. Before everybody gets all excited for just going out and buying second hand civvy vessels I suggest they familiarise themselves with the Service inquiry into HMS Endurance’s flooding and in particular points 84, 85 and 86. of the “Main incident – root causes”: Then have a look at point 103. of the conclusions then come back and argue that it is a really SUPER DUPER IDEA.

stephen duckworth
February 17, 2016 5:54 pm

An interesting video of the MV Delta Mariner unloading a Vandenberg AFB .It gives an idea of the cavernous space inside (pun intended).
PS on my earlier post I gave the draft at 2.4m or 8′ which is its FLT draft when its water ballast tanks are empty so it can navigate rivers and shallows , at sea it floods these and draws 4.8m or 16′ providing much needed stability in the open ocean.You can see its at sea draft if you imagine not being able to see the antifouling paint below its main blue hull paint job in the video.

February 17, 2016 7:31 pm

my favourite is still the Ulstein SX119

February 18, 2016 3:59 pm

@Shark Bait,

I’d say the simplest (not necessarily easiest once you get into the guts of the ship’s design, but the simplest in conception) answer re: Doorman-for-Forts is to ditch the chief area where the Dutch may have overreached, trying to have it serve as a task force command ship since the Dutch lack a flat-top (given their other shared projects with Navantia they ought to have picked up a JC-model flat-top, they’re not cripplingly expensive esp in the original pre-Australian design for anyone except the legendarily tight-fisted Dutch treasury, who make HMT look like Peter O’Toole on a bender.) The rest of its mainline specs — the lane meters, crane, and hangar space — are in large part borrowed from the Forts rather than vice versa, with the pleasant steel-beach addition (room for Mexeflotes, TD!) I’m happy to agree that trying to have Hr.Ms. Karel Doorman be a command ship *and* a SSS may pose problems for the Dutch. But the Bays aren’t carbon copies of Johan de Witt and Rotterdam, just hangarless (among other things) cousins. I suspect much the same could be done here: lose the integral sensor mast, the command facilities, and one or two other gubbins and build the utility elements. But within the narrow ambit that these should be the SSS replacement for the RFA not a Ship That Isn’t a Frigate, with the plus that you have enough lane metres to bung in a prefab hospital when required for military or HADR purposes.

The Other Chris
February 18, 2016 4:32 pm

Vaguely recall Not a Boffin describing the conflicting standards and regulations for the various stores and bunkers desired by the Koninklijke Marine being a contributory factory in the Karel Doorman’s issues and delays.

On VN Partisan, she is restricted in what weather conditions she can now operate in given the methods of her conversion. This may not impede her training role significantly, but would impede a more active role for another vessel converted with a similar approach.

Adjusting the conversion method for the hull for the tasks desired may place you back in the territory where traditional design yields similar or greater capability for the same cost and effort.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
February 18, 2016 4:59 pm

“Vaguely recall Not a Boffin describing the conflicting standards and regulations for the various stores and bunkers desired by the Koninklijke Marine being a contributory factory in the Karel Doorman’s issues and delays”

Nope. Don’t think so. What I may have said – in a similar context to now is that the KD is not suitable for use as the FSS. Primarily because she’s not got enough depth in her range of stores to support a big group or indeed RAS it quickly.

Indeed, I’d be very interested to see whereabouts the lane metre requirements Sharkbait suggests were lifted from the Forts are on the ships, as last time I was on any of them, there are no vehicle spaces at all…….The clue is in the complete and total absence of any loading ramps.

That’s because KD was designed around a requirement far closer to that of the Canadian JSS than what is required for either the FSS or JSBL.

As for the rest of this, I’m with TAS. This thread is someone’s idea looking for a requirement. That requirement may involve Argus and /or Diligence, but won’t be found anywhere else.

Peter Elliott
February 18, 2016 5:08 pm

I guess its the sort of requirement that might spring into existance as a UOR in the event of violent sea war breaking out unexpectedly and ships getting sunk found wanting. Then it would be all hands to the pump like 1982 or indeed 1939.

You’d like to think its somebody’s job somewhere to keep an “actions on” plan up to date for what sort of STUFT is available, that would be most useful, and how and where it could be converted quickest. In those two wars we had the Royal Dockyards to fall back on. Not next time.

Peter Elliott
February 18, 2016 5:57 pm

Just to throw something out there: Diligence is our submarine tender and once upon a time was used to re-arm our SSN’s at sea. As I undertsand it this was last attmpted in 1991 and is now considered too dangerous becuase of the risk of the sea flooding the open hatches.

How about replacing Diligence with a real world version of the MV Liparus, the Bond villain’s ship in The Spy Who Loved Me, into which an SSN can sail to be fully re-armed at sea. The fictional version swallowed 3 whole SSBNs. How hard can it be? ;)

Not A Boffin
Not A Boffin
February 18, 2016 11:30 pm

My apologies. Jackstaff not SB was suggesting KD based on Fort requirements. Damn the absence of edit function….

February 19, 2016 12:06 am


No worries — I’ll apologise in turn for not being clearer in the KD discussion myself (which I suppose is my way of sharing your thoughts on an edit button :)

Really the lane metres and steel beach are the improvement KD offers on the basic capabilities of the Fort design: I’d say the other bits re bunkerage, RAS capabilities, heli capabilities (spots and hangar), etc., are what the Dutch learned watching the Forts in action. And something that is that much (if no more) JSS, as you point out it is, would be useful for the RFA for two reasons. One is, specifically, that you can knock up a modular hospital therein and fulfill one of the Argus requirements (the central one these days rather than rotary training.) The other reason for accepting that factor in the design viz. the Forts is that there are now only three Bays. That means, at maximum stretch, one with the carrier group (one QE, one LPD, one Bay), a second doing some other sort of thing (esp helping the MCMs on Kipion these days but potentially elsewhere) and the third available to be working up with a rotating second carrier or to support said carrier in an emergency deployment if not just off duty.

So, with the task group (QE/LPD/Bay plus a Tide and escorts) there’s a need for something that offers some of the extra EMF-related space once occupied by the presence of a second Bay with the typical RFTG. Would that short said ship a bit on providing ammunition bunkerage for the combatant vessels in particular? Probably, but the QEs for one are considerably larger than their predecessors and I’m hoping that design in those cases were sound enough to help on that count (more bunkerage in absolute, not just relative terms, i.e. for the increased number of potential cabs aboard not just the increased scale of the ship.) Otherwise you’re back in circumstances where it would be not just useful but necessary to have a whole ‘nother dedicated support vessel permanently attached (a Fort equivalent and a Bay equivalent rather than one ship that can do a lot of both), not to mention Tides/Waves that may duck in and out anyway providing surge capacity RAS at high tempo. This might — might — be a way to address that in an efficient fashion.

February 19, 2016 1:31 pm

TD, great article, as others have noted, great research and of course fond memories of the original series.

As for the needs / requirements / use case – not quite sure of the cost benefit analysis of buying an old merchant hull and converting it, unless it was a big Mærsk S class to AFSB conversion for the ARG…. :-)

With respect to your original thoughts, I am with Jedibeeftrix, Ulstein Sx119 would have been a grand idea, but due to defence industrial policy / Government policy to “look after” the defence industrial complex that is BAe, we end up with a bunch of fairly useless River Batch II, that add no capability to the RN, but keep shipbuilding going.

With respect to this post, I will return to my original pre-SDR2010 “future of ….” Guest post – the Royal Dutch Navy’s Karel Doorman / Damen Enforcer would offer considerable potential to the UK with a number of different procurement scenarios. It is a big, highly flexible design, that can be cheaply customized if desired: and is relatively cheap to acquire in the first place.

What it cannot do, as has already been noted, is in its current form, fulfill the MARS Solid Stores Support Ship role to support the QE class carriers. However it’s Damen Enforcer design based hull could certainly provide a solid basis for a SSS design – which would then provide commonality of hull, main machinery, auxilliary machinery etc etc with other “JSS” class vessels. What other JSS class vessels ? Well as already noted:

1 to replace RFA Argus. An out of the box KD with modular containerized hospital – or customize one with a full medical suit built in to the cargo deck. Still have a big hanger and a big flight deck for the helo deck landing training role.

1 to replace RFA Diligence. Containerized workshops and workspaces on the big cargo deck, maybe even some in a a reduced sized hanger. Additional cranage might reduce the operational area of the flight deck, but that would be fine and suitable for such a role. The bunkerage and stores ability of the basic design, gives great flexibility in the role of MCMV support ship (which is what the Deligence was when I did my time onboard her).

2 to replace the last Rover class small fleet tankers. The JSS carries about as much give away fuel as a Rover, and could in this role take over the old Forts role as a RFA AWS helo carrier if required (armoured ISO containers on the cargo deck could provide torpedo magazine space). Due to the flexibility of design it would be highly appropriate for anti-piracy work, disaster support etc

1 to replace any other vessel that has ever been tasked to the West Indies. With medical facilities, the ability to support USN / USCG assets, embark USCG helo’s for anti-drug ops, to carry big GO FAST interceptor boats on the davits and disaster relief stores on the cargo deck.

So that is 5 plus two SSS based on same hull, given massive commonality and considerable through life support economies for considerable flexibility.

Now to really really push the boat out, so to speak, I would add a sixth, paid for by DIFID, painted white, with increased medical facilities and carrying civilian contractor flown / maintained and “HM Coastguard” liveried helo’s as a soft power policy tool.

Could we pick up cheap second hand civvy vessels for some or all of these roles, sure, maybe, but I remain sceptical of the benefits when weighed against a comprehensive programme to equip the RFA with a common / standard based capability.

Oh, and I know we all know it, but the difference between a globe spanning and highly effective UK maritime capability, the thing we have than no one other than tthe U.S.has is the support flotilla of the RFA.

February 19, 2016 6:11 pm


Good to see an old mate down the local on a Friday (I’m still a few hours west of you so we’re not legal at the bar here just yet :) All of that, besides being clearer and more eloquent than anything I say, seems spot on. And having one do WIGS work makes immense sense. I do think there’s going to have to be some design compromise, at least in keeping the lane space and divvying up its typical load (solid stores vs additional EMF kit) because of the dilemma I mentioned — the drop below critical mass with the Bays, at least in their RFTG role. I suspect in the shrunken fleet we will start to see the Waves used as “Rovers-plus” when the Tides come into service. And DFID buy-in with some KDs is inspired. Steady availability for HADR plus a familiar platform for military personnel (especially medical) for events like the Ebola outbreak.

Given the final outcome of SDSR it would’ve been smarter just to buy five Khareefs (stretched a little if need be) in a “Type 31” role plus this (handling WIGS) and leave Clyde in Those Islands, plus 9-10 full-service T26 (remembering, as I mentioned in the root thread I think, that in the early T23 days those 8 ASW T23s were supplemented by four more ASW T22 B3s.) But that would’ve made construction a political football during the Referendum — and only because the historically tight-fisted Tories (doesn’t make Labour saints or even, always, competent, but with two exceptions in the 1940s and the mid-1980s the Tories have been tight-fisted on defence, they want budget cuts in general and defence is a politically palatable one with the public) didn’t say “look, we’re not going to build as many T26 but the T45s are getting knackered from overuse so by the time we’re done with T26 there will really need to be T45 replacement work underway.” New spend? Heaven forfend…

shark bait
February 19, 2016 10:01 pm

How are we affording 7 ships when the budget is for 3? The DFID will never pay for military equipment, nor should they.

I’m not sure what a Karel Doorman type could offer more than BMT’s concept, which seems right on the money to me. This is an auxiliary ship, not a ship that isn’t a frigate.

shark bait
February 19, 2016 10:10 pm

I don’t think there is merit in converting second hand vessels. When we have the time to build new, why would we settle for compromised designs and lack of commonality?

I do see a use for the ship that is not a frigate, perfect for maritime security, MCM, survey and mother ship role’s, however a new build based on commercial blue prints is surely the way to go.

Like others I think a Ulstein design could be a good choice, as well as many other PSV. They all have a big space on the back that is intended to be tailored by each customer.

If the Royal Navy was a customer we would like to see a hanger / mission bay on the back, followed by a flight deck and boat handling facilities. That would enable the platform to swing roles based on the equipment within its mission bay, resulting in a flexible platform, that is well within the capabilities of a PSV which should make the platform affordable.

February 20, 2016 2:12 pm

As part of an overall rebalancing of the RN, if we assume that we need to stay within current hulls and budget then I would like to see a move to a 30 escort navy. To achieve this we need to sacrifice something and given the pace of change within the MHVC area this is the most likely area to change our assets.

why am I mentioning this, well because as has been pointed out later in this thread the Karel Doorman type ship cannot replace an SSS. What it can do however is replace all the Amphibious assets, the specialists AND provide solid stores if required Such as Kipon.

It depends what you want in life and for me I want more escorts and more subs, not more OPV’s and more mine hunters and I am willing to compromise on assets that have less war fighting capability.

My Navy would look something like this

4 Successor
10 Astutes
2 Carriers
30 Escorts (all T26 eventually – based on the Iver Huitfeldt design)
8 Tides (Aegir hull)
7 Multi Role JSS (2 mothership 2 LPD 1 Hospital – all SS capable)
25 patrol vessels (Safeboats Mk 6)
1 repair (Aegir again)
1 Ice patrol (specialist

MHVC would be from a JSS operating Atlas ARCIMS system and CB90’s would be the standard boarding and riverine vessel)

This gives us an 88 ship Navy which is actually the same number (give or take 2 assets) as today, but isa totally different beast.

This means we have 7 hull types and a 25 year order book and all of this can be done at under £4bn per annum out of a £17bn equipment budget, so not pie in the sky. The key is planning and scheduling and as we have seen with the tides we need to get the best deal wherever that may be.

So a frigate that isn’t a frigate for me is the wrong kind of discussion, but is a good dialogue to open the wider discussion of where are we really willing to compromise and can we make those compromises work for us.

Its time we had a good look at what we need and take a bold step forward.

February 20, 2016 2:15 pm

@Sharkbait – Mars SSS 3 ship requirement I assume will come from that BMT design and be built in Korea. I agree a bit of a no brainer surely – designed to do a specific job of supporting the carriers. I think Argus has been a vitally important vessel and even when the QEs are on board, there will be a role for aviation support / HADR / hospital / SF support that frankly can and should be done by something other than a QE. Argus should therefore have a like for like replacement – one could adapt the BMT SSS design, one could do a commercial rebuild but if KD exists why not just go for that? Decent deck size and flexible space. Diligence replacement, assuming we need one – either commercial adaptation as before or adapt on of the Bays and replace in the amphib role with a new build version with hanger? If KD seems two excessive perhaps something like 2 Johan de Witt style enhanced Bays as being a decent balance of military / commercial that would have multiple utility for patrol, support etc. Direct replacements for Argus / Diligence with one or more Bays becoming peacetime support / maintenance ships

February 20, 2016 4:49 pm

– and a good friday night it was too…. No idea why my achilles is so sore….

I liked your comments on the main thread page. Yes 9 ASW centric T26 indeed. However as we dont have many long range ASW weapons to meet the range of the active / passive towed array kit, except embarked Merlin – the ability for a KD to act as the ASW helo mothership (as per the CONOPS for Fort Victoria) bring’s the “high end fighty” role a bit of kit which is cheap and flexible for non-war time non-high intensity roles. I seriously wonder if a KD plus more upgraded Merlin’s would be cheaper than a 9th T26 ?

February 20, 2016 7:41 pm

Isn’t it all a bit depressing that we are spending £178n on “equipment” over the next 10 years and yet we can’t seem to fund £40bn worth of naval assets, especially when you consider a considerable amount of the requirement has already either been ordered or is in final stages of construction.

Why are we talking about second hand ships and making ends meet when it is clear from other forces around the world that £4bn buys an awful lot.

1.5 Successor (10bn)
4 Astutes (£2bn)
12 Escorts (£6bn)
2 Carriers (£8bn)
8 Tides (£1bn)
8 Tides other (£1bn)
10 Patrol Vessels (£600m)
60 CB90’s (£200m)
50 Atlas ARCIMS (£100m)

The above comes to £30bn for a 10 year cycle and we have a further £10bn for other items. This is what can /should be built over the next 10 years and with the exception of the carriers (which I personally would not replace) repeated thereafter until we get to a critical mass (see my other mail on my views on this please),

Why are we looking at compromises when we should be getting what we want. I really just don’t understand it and it seems as if we are believing the BS about funds being tight – they simply are not.

Can anyone enlighten me to what equipment we are actually spending £18n on every year please as I am just not seeing it.

The above is based on a costed 25 year procurement cycle. The USN has a 30 year plan. Spend a little and often instead of famine and feast and you can get an awful lot.

June 9, 2016 5:51 pm

Are prices and expenses quoted in this article in 2016 values? Its not big difference for this decade but for example what was £2 million in 1982 is about £7 million in 2016.

The Other Chris
June 16, 2017 1:12 pm

Cragside is now Ocean Trader:

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