UNION bosses have welcomed a new multi-million pound investment at Portsmouth Naval Base to reopen one of the military hub’s long-closed dry docks.
A new caisson has arrived at the naval establishment meaning the HQ’s 14 Dock can once again be used for vital ship maintenance and repair works after a 15-year stint of closure.
Reopening the facility takes the base’s capability up to 11 dry docks which can support ships up to the size of a Type 45 destroyer.
Bosses at GMB, which represents hundreds of workers at the dockyard, have welcomed the move, which will help to secure vital maintenance jobs in the base for years to come.
Bryan Hulley, regional organiser at GMB, said: ‘This is good news for our members in the ship repair industry that Portsmouth now has increased capacity for refit and maintenance work.
‘It means we will have a greater chance of secure our fair share of work in Portsmouth for the future. It’s great news.’
Captain Bill Oliphant, Captain of the Base, said the upgraded facility – due to come into action in the New Year – would mean the base could repair and refit warships faster and more efficiency than ever before.
He said: ‘Today is a significant moment in the regeneration of Portsmouth Naval Base. 14 Dock has been unavailable since 2002 so the arrival of this new caisson to give us access to this dock once again is a huge shift in capability.
‘A caisson is like a tailor made plug which fits into the end of the dry dock, forming a seal so that the dock itself can then be pumped empty of water, giving access to the underside of the ship that is in for maintenance.’
The new caisson is designed to remain in service for 25 years without the need for servicing. It uses electric pumps to blast out the ballast water rather than being blown out by compressed air.
It is able to pump out the 20m gallons of water from the dry dock in between four and five hours.
The caisson has already been put to the test with a full drain-down of the dry dock for maintenance crews to assess how much cleaning needs to be done to it before the first ship will be brought in for works. It is due to open early next year.