The commanding officer of the new facility being built for the Royal Navy’s fleet of landing craft, hovercraft and fast offshore raiding craft has hailed it as a fantastic site.
This part of the Devonport Landing Craft Collocation Project is a £30.2 million project located within HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth and will be the hub of the Royal Navy’s amphibious capability.
Colonel Garth Manger, Commanding Officer of the new centre, due to be completed by spring next year, said the project was on time and making good progress: “This is a fantastic new asset being built in Devonport and it underlines the naval base as a centre of specialisation for amphibious support and training. The advantages are that we can centralise the amphibious landing craft and other small craft along with two Assault Squadrons, managed as one whole fleet. The training will also be in one location. The site is alongside the jetties where the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships such as HMS Ocean and Bulwark are berthed.”
Colonel Manger explained that the centre, which will have the ‘largest wet room’ in the South West, will also provide fully equipped engineering facilities that will enable Royal Marines to maintain all of the crafts and vehicles that they use.
He said: The coxswains, students and other personnel will be able to step off their craft on the pontoon and walk straight into the adjacent training block’s lower floor in their water-proof gear where they can get changed and immediately head upstairs to the lecture rooms. This allows crews to concentrate on developing skills rather than worrying about their boats.’’
He said the Royal Navy was rightly proud of its amphibious capability and its Royal Marines which specialise in landing by sea via dedicated vessels. This would most efficiently be supported by this new centre enhancing the delivery of amphibious capability to the frontline.
Joint Project Team Leader Commander Tim Geary said: “This new centre is part of the development of the Naval Base. It is good news for Devonport and represents a big investment underpinning the presence of the amphibious centre of excellence within the Naval Base.”
The centre is being delivered by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), the MOD’s property and services provider. It will be a major asset to Devonport Naval Base, strengthening its reputation as the centre for amphibious warfare, with 539 Assault Squadron and 10 (Landing Craft) Training Squadron moving in when complete later next year.
The Naval Base is already the joint home to 1 Assault Group Royal Marines and the Assault Squadrons that are embarked onboard the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships; HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark. These Assault Squadrons deploy with the amphibious ships providing them with a range of amphibious and surface manoeuvre capability such as the delivery of Commandos by landing crafts to shore and providing armed protection from the fast offshore raiding crafts.
A major role for the new centre will be to train and develop core amphibious and surface assault skills and equipment in order to maximise the operational capability and availability of the amphibious assault forces.
The centre will provide administrative and training headquarters along with the various training spaces, while the fleet of amphibious small craft will be based on the new pontoons and other berths with engineering workshops for servicing these crafts and associated vehicles.
The construction of these buildings, hard standings and associated waterfront facilities came with its own engineering challenges, which include the building of a wide slipway, new finger jetty and pontoon berths involving dredging to increase the depth of water for the new craft. The jetty will also be equipped with a ship hoist which will be able to lift the 168-tonne landing craft out of the water for servicing.
Construction is by DIO’s industry partner Debut Services (South West) Limited under their South West Regional Prime Contract which was established to deliver efficiency and best value across the MOD’s estate. Debut services benefits from the proven global strength of Lend Lease, one of the world’s largest real estate solutions providers and Babcock International’s recognised proven track record as one of the UK’s largest providers of property management services.
Jonathan Hart, DIO Project Manager, said: “DIO’s top priority is supporting our Armed Forces as they prepare for operations. We are proud to be delivering this hugely important project with Debut to enable the Royal Marines to develop their Amphibious Centre at Devonport. The delivery team have overcome numerous construction challenges, working in collaboration with Naval Base personnel, to integrate these complex new facilities into a fully operational Naval Base. The team’s attention is firmly focussed on maintaining momentum towards handing over the completed facilities to the Royal Marines in early 2013.”