DESIGNS to create a deeper channel in Portsmouth Harbour for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers have been approved after a series of computer simulator tests.
The latest stage in ensuring the two 65,000-tonne warships will be able to sail in and out of Portsmouth saw navy navigators drive virtual versions of the ships in a computerised mock-up of the harbour.
The simulator created a digital version of the harbour as it will be in 2015 after the planned channels have been made.
The equipment at HMS Collingwood in Fareham has a realistic bridge so sailors could practise manoeuvring Britain’s largest ever warships through the gap past the Round Tower and to the jetty at Portsmouth Naval Base.
The 200-plus trial runs have enabled the navy to rubber-stamp plans to dredge a new 30ft-deep approach channel in the harbour.
The testing was carried out with the help of marine firm BMT Isis, which came up with a new channel design in 2006.
The Fareham-based company said the navy was happy with the proposed design and satisfied it will allow the safe arrival and departure of the carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
‘Our particular role was to help the Royal Navy better understand how the vessels are likely to handle at low speeds and ensure the navigational process can be conducted as effectively as possible,’ said Ian Dand, principal consultant at BMT Isis.
He added: ‘This has allowed the navigators to better understand the topography of the new channel, what aids to navigation will be required, and where they need to be placed.’
The £1m project to accommodate the new warships recently saw 27 boreholes drilled in and around the harbour entrance.
The MoD will use the samples taken to establish what it will do with the 3.5m tonnes of waste material that is due to be taken out of the harbour during the dredging work in 2014 and 2015.
Additional work will see jetties at Portsmouth Naval Base strengthened to cope with the weight of the new ships, which are being built across six UK shipyards – including Portsmouth – at a cost of £5.2bn. The first of the two new supercarriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is scheduled to arrive in Portsmouth in 2016.
HMS Prince of Wales is due to come to the city in 2018. The ships are designed to be operational from 2020, although one may be mothballed initially to save cash.