UK’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Victoria has returned to sea following a dry-docking period at Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead shipyard that saw the vessel undergo its 30-year special survey.
The supply ship is one of the largest vessels operated by the UK Ministry of Defence and plays a key role at the forefront of British naval operations.
RFA Fort Victoria sailed from Cammell Laird’s non-tidal wet basin bound for Loch Striven in Scotland in January, having undergone a major program of work carried out under a 10-year Through Life Support contract awarded to the marine engineering services provider in 2018.
Key aspects of the ship’s 30-year special survey included inspections and maintenance of RFA Fort Victoria’s main engines, propulsion systems and steering equipment. All of the ship’s side valves, more than 230, were also inspected and serviced. The vessel’s ballast valve operation remote control was upgraded, along with its stores and Replenishment at Sea (RAS) cranes. A full tank survey was carried out and a new hangar crane installed.
The latest work followed a two-phase life extension program completed by Cammell Laird in 2018, designed to keep RFA Fort Victoria in service.
During her time in dry dock, RFA Fort Victoria’s port and starboard propellers, propeller shafts, inner and outer stern seals, all intermediate shafts, shaft couplings and bearing blocks were unshipped from their normal working positions and presented to the class surveyor before being refitted. The ship’s propulsion line gearboxes were inspected at the same time, which in turn allowed engineers to inspect and renew major items on both clutches, and refurbish two shaft brakes.
In addition, the ship’s lifeboats and lifeboat davits were put through a program of testing and maintenance, while steelwork surveys and repairs were carried out in one of the ship’s lift shafts.
“Managing the available space on board RFA Fort Victoria was a particularly challenging aspect of this refit as we were turning an already congested space into a major workplace filled with heavy lifting equipment, specialised tooling and skilled tradespeople. As a result, we needed to move a large number of ancillary items to a safe stowage area before work could commence,” John Kennedy, MOD Programme Director at Cammell Laird, explained.