Shipbuilders’ pride as new Portsmouth carrier reaches milestone

HMS Duncan has returned to Portsmouth after spending three months in the Mediterranean Picture:  L/Phot Louise George

HMS Duncan returns to Portsmouth after three months away at sea

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SHIPBUILDERS who worked on vast sections of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers can finish the job with pride.

That’s the message being sent out today as HMS Queen Elizabeth nears completion in Rosyth.

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to its naming ceremony in June. PPP-140514-173906001

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to its naming ceremony in June. PPP-140514-173906001

Today marks 50 days until the official naming ceremony for the largest warship ever built for the navy.

At the Scottish dockyard where the massive carrier is being put together, work continues at a pace to get the warship ready.

It is a bittersweet sight for shipyard workers in Portsmouth who built large blocks of the carrier in the city.

Their 940-strong workforce was cut in November last year as BAE Systems prepares to move its operations north of the border.

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to it's naming ceremony in June.

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to it's naming ceremony in June.

But Paul Bowsher, the BAE project manager for Portsmouth, says the team should hold their heads high.

‘It’s a very difficult time for people at the moment in Portsmouth, but I’m immensely proud of how everybody has worked together and remained focused,’ he told The News.

‘We are determined to finish with pride.

‘You feel a huge sense of achievement to see all the blocks in place like this.

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to it's naming ceremony in June.''Pic- Workers in the hanger section of the ship PPP-140514-173927001

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to it's naming ceremony in June.''Pic- Workers in the hanger section of the ship PPP-140514-173927001

‘It is bittersweet, but we know we leave a legacy that will come home to Portsmouth.

‘For us now to be able to see our blocks fitted into the carrier is a really proud moment.

‘(The shipbuilders) have remained focused through very difficult times and they deserve full credit for 
it.’

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to arrive in Portsmouth, her home port, in 2017.

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to it's naming ceremony in June. PPP-140514-174051001

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, undergoing work prior to it's naming ceremony in June. PPP-140514-174051001

Her structure is now complete, with the addition of her two islands, radar, mast and flight deck lifts.

Shipyard workers in Portsmouth are now finishing off several blocks for the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, before their jobs are due to be cut towards the end of this year.

The next section to leave will be floated out of Portsmouth in 
August.

Mr Bowsher added: ‘What’s nice is that these blocks will eventually come back to Portsmouth when the ship arrives to be based there.

‘It’s quite emotional to see the sheer scale of the carrier here.

‘You see the drawings and the computer models but it’s not the same until you get here and see it with your own eyes.

‘This aircraft carrier will block out the sun when she comes into Portsmouth.’

Giant sections of the aircraft carrier were floated out of Portsmouth and towed up to Scotland over a couple of years to be joined with other parts built at separate yards.

Captain Simon Petitt, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s senior naval officer, said the arrival of the new aircraft carrier later this decade will herald a return to the old days of naval strike 
capability.

He said: ‘It will be a fantastic day when the ship arrives in Portsmouth.

‘Portsmouth is the hub for the surface fleet, and the carrier is the centre point of naval capability.’

Once the dry dock containing HMS Queen Elizabeth is flooded in July, she will be moved out to a jetty.

Then will begin the process of setting up her internal systems.

It is delicate work – some parts of the ship have laid dormant for years as the hull is pieced together.

After that, her staff will begin to move on board, and she will head off for sea trials in August 2016.