COMPLEX plans to build a huge new dry dock for the Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers have been backed by an international defence firm boss.
Brian Johnson, who is UK business development director for BAE Systems naval ships, said the ambitious proposals to construct the facility at Portsmouth Naval Base could be a massive boost to the area.
As previously revealed by The News, expert engineers are said to be working on the project, which sources say could see the base’s Number 2 Basin converted into one of the country’s biggest dry docks.
The plan is still being developed, with the Royal Navy stressing it was too early to say if it would ever come to fruition.
However, if it was agreed and signed-off, the enormous project would be worth at least £1bn to Portsmouth’s economy, city leaders have estimated.
Mr Johnson agreed and said: ‘The support of the carrier will bring in a billion pounds to the economy.
‘There is no doubt that if we had that dry dock here, and that facility to dock the carrier, it would absolutely make a focus for that work and it would underpin it.’
BAE Systems is responsible for maintaining the Royal Navy’s fleet in Portsmouth.
The addition of a dry dock in the city naval base would mean carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, could undertake significant maintenance work on their hulls and propulsion systems, among others, in their home city.
Currently, this work can only be carried out hundreds of miles away at the dockyard in Rosyth, Scotland, which has a dry dock large enough to fit the 65,000-tonne, 280m leviathans.
Mr Johnson said that although he was ‘keen’ to see the new facility built in Portsmouth, the business plan for such a design would have to ‘make sense’ economically.
He added: ‘We are very keen to be at the heart of supporting the carriers going forward and if that investment is right we will be completely supportive of it.
‘We’re still working out the right thing to do because building something for the sake of it being totemic, if it is not economically sensible, doesn’t really help any area.
‘So we’re working up those plans with the navy and we will be completely supportive - if the business case is right.’
Considerations would have to be taken, he said, about the ‘limited waterfront space’ in Portsmouth.
‘Waterfront space in Portsmouth is under quite a lot of pressure,’ he added. ‘We’ve got two carriers, six Type 45s (destroyers), the [Type] 23s (frigates) that are still here, we’ve got pressure from the commercial port; the council would like to have more cruise ships come in if we could.
‘So I think for Portsmouth we need to weigh up what investment in the dockyard makes best for the economy of Portsmouth and for the Solent region.’