Plans for a £150M (US$186M) disaster relief ship, that will have commercial ropax capability, were officially launched during London International Shipping Week
Birkenhead shipyard and marine engineering services specialist Cammell Laird co-designed the ship.
Britannia Maritime Aid (BMA), the registered charity leading the project, wants the vessel to be built at Cammell Laird and equipped with innovative British technology. The ship will be permanently based in the Caribbean, tasked with supporting disaster relief efforts and providing specialist training.
Cammell Laird chief operating officer Tony Graham said the vessel’s design is a variant of Cammell Laird’s ropax platform, developed in conjunction with ship designers Leadship and first unveiled at Nor-Shipping this year.
Rather than being a one-off specialised vessel with limited applications, the first-of-its-kind disaster relief and training ship will have strong, versatile commercial ropax capability, a statement explained.
Mr Graham said “Cammell Laird is proud to be supporting Britannia Maritime Aid in developing a design and build offer for a UK Aid and Training Ship. Working closely with the Leadship design house our commercial approach gave Britannia Maritime Aid confidence in their requirement trade-offs, procurement cost estimate and support cost estimate. This technical and cost due diligence underpins the Britannia Maritime Aid business case.
“Our commercial design ensures great value for money and protects the vessel’s resale value as a cutting-edge ropax. We have also managed to incorporate and consider advanced technology concepts such as autonomous vehicles to maximise its operational capability and its future relevance. A British-built ship encourages the British public to feel a sense of ownership of a Britannia Maritime Aid vessel working on their behalf and sailing under the Blue Ensign.”
Maritime professionals and training experts have joined forces for the project with backing from former First Sea Lords, the Lord West of Spithead and Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh.
Others supporters include members of the Houses of Lords and Commons, ship designers Leadship, unions RMT and Nautilus International, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Merchant Navy Training Board, the maritime charity London Trinity House and the Government of Barbados.
As well as supporting humanitarian aid missions in the Caribbean, the ship will provide sea training berths for the next generation of UK and Commonwealth officer cadets, rating apprentices and trainees in trades associated with aid and reconstruction. Its crew will focus on the environment and ocean advocacy – including beach and coast clean ups, plastic collection and research.
BMA’s vessel will include a training centre, landing craft, helicopters, drones, rough terrain vehicles, onboard medical facilities, briefing rooms, conference facilities, workshops and full mission bridge and engine simulators for trainees.
The ship will be able to carry up to 6,000 tonnes of vehicles and aid supplies – more than 10 times the capacity of current vessels – including field hospitals, field kitchens, tents, fresh water and fuel for devastated areas.
BMA aims to deliver its ship by 2024 and will charter or buy suitable ships to run operations until its purpose-built ship is ready. It has started a crowdfunding campaign for initial costs but intends to gain long-term funding from the government, industry, the private sector and benefactors.