A MASSIVE barge arrived in Portsmouth yesterday as the dockyard prepares to release its first section of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier.
The 300ft barge, called Viking 7, reached Portsmouth Naval Base at 8.30am and will berth there for a week before taking the 1,820-tonne stern section of HMS Queen Elizabeth up to Scotland next Sunday.
The section – called Lower Block 05 – has taken BAE Systems 28 months to build.
It consists of two large steel rings which will be loaded out of the shipbuilding hall and onto the barge by engineers using a 176-wheel remote-controlled platform vehicle.
Lower Block 05 will then be welded into place before the barge sets sail on a 500-mile voyage to Rosyth dockyard.
Paul Bowsher, who is in charge of the aircraft carriers project in Portsmouth, said: ‘This is the first delivery of three sections of the new aircraft carrier that are being built here in Portsmouth.
‘We are all extremely proud to be working on the carrier and to send out the first piece will be a key milestone for us.
‘It will be a proud moment to see Lower Block 05 leave the city, and the whole team will eventually get to see what their 28 months of hard work has produced.’
It is due to take the barge four days to get to Rosyth, which is the only UK shipyard large enough to assemble all the parts of the navy’s new 65,000-tonne warships.
Portsmouth workers are also nearing the completion of a mid-section of Queen Elizabeth’s hull called Lower Block 02.
This section contains some for the ships engine rooms and weighs 6,000-tonnes.
Work started on Lower Block 02 in February 2010 and it will be loaded out on to a barge on May 15 prior to sailing north on May 25.
The final section of the new aircraft carrier – which when compete will be the biggest the Royal Navy has ever had, weighing 65,000-tonnes – being built in Portsmouth is the Forward Island.
This section is due to leave the dockyard in November and complete the city’s contract for the carrier.