Royal Navy amphibious command ship HMS Albion has reached a milestone in her major refit in dry dock in Devonport Docks, Plymouth.
It has been five years since HMS Albion was placed into extended readiness, but work is now well underway breathing life back into her to take over from sister landing ship HMS Bulwark next year.
With the external hull work almost complete and the ship due to refloat in the middle of this year, the focus is now on ship’s staff moving onboard early next year before commencing sea trials later in the year.
Commander Mark Hocking, head of HMS Albion’s weapons engineering, said: “having joined the ship in September 2014 when there were only a handful of personnel standing by, no lighting, ventilation or power, it has been an incredible journey to get her to this stage. The ship’s company is now growing by the day with all the infrastructure of a running unit in place, and to see the new equipment and systems coming to life is a massive milestone.’’
To date, 1.2 million man hours of work are planned to ready the ship for her next period of operations and the ship is on track for her next major milestone of leaving the dry dock at the end of May.
The major package of work will see over 110 alterations and additions incorporated into the ship to prepare operations. She will have a much improved combat system compared to her sister with the addition of Phalanx, 997-radar and a new command system. Engineering systems will see the addition of an updated fire detection system and an upgrade to fresh water cooling for the propulsion system.
Amazingly, and testament to the work completed by the MOD’s Bristol-based Defence Equipment and Support organisation and MOD industrial partner Babcock, the ship has been extremely well preserved over the last five years with the internal dehumidification keeping her shipshape which has made the task of regeneration easier for the almost refit’s 4,000 work force.
Although the ship has been lying dormant, the remaining crew of 85 has been busy ensuring links with affiliated organisations are kept alive. The ship’s sponsor, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne visited the ship last year giving her royal seal of approval for the work and meeting local school children as part of a science, technology, engineering and maths promotional event organised by Babcock. The ship’s senior naval officer, Commander Steve Ward visited the Mercian regiment and Cheshire Council to re-open dialogue, and the Worshipful Company of Brewers remain engaged with the ship.