Portsmouth Shipyard Marks End of An Era

Prince of Wales LBO2 Load out 18-8-2014
Lower block 02 for the HMS Prince of Wales is comprised of cabins and machinery space. Photo courtesy BAE Systems

A somber reminder today that naval shipbuilding at BAE Systems’ shipyard in Portsmouth, England is coming to a end as a large section of hull for the second and final Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier was rolled out.

In a statement Monday, BAE said it rolled out a 6,000 ton forward section of the future HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier from its dock hall at the Portsmouth facility and the block is now ready to be transported by barge to Rosyth, located on the east coast of Scotland, for final assembly.

Unfortunately, however, the roll-out and departure of the block also mark the end of an era at the historic yard.

BAE Systems last November announced plans to lay off some 1,775 workers across the U.K. and close its doors at the Portsmouth facility as the company shifted future warship manufacturing to Scotland. BAE said ship construction at Portsmouth would cease in the second half of this year after contract work was completed on the new class of aircraft carriers. The cuts were expected to affect 940 workers in Portsmouth alone, BAE said.

The lower section of the future HMS Prince of Wales, known as Lower Block 02, marked the final major project at the Portsmouth facility, which has a rich history naval shipbuilding dating back hundreds of years. The block is now in process of being secured to a barge and is expected to depart for Rosyth next Tuesday, BAE said.

The facility is expected to shift hands to the Ministry of Defence by the end of the year, reports BBC, and other companies have shown interest in taking over the Portsmouth shipyard.

The 65,000-ton aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are slated to be the biggest and most powerful warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy. Both are being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, made up of BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence.

Update: A statement from BAE to gCaptain said that 250 staff retained in the Portsmouth area for their shipbuilding business, which includes members of their Type 26 Global Combat Ship program and employees of their Combat Systems team, who design, develop and integrate the ‘brains’ of complex warships from radars to the equipment inside operations rooms.

The roll-out rolled out of the dock hall this morning using 2304 wheels guided by a single remote controled
The 6,000 ton section was rolled out of the dock hall Monday morning using a remoted controlled transporter equipped with 2,304 wheels. Photo (c) BAE Systems