PLANS are being drawn up to install a mammoth mega crane which will loom over Portsmouth Naval Base, The News can reveal.
The 72m-tall fixture is being fitted as part of defence giant BAE Systems’ £600m contract of works to improve the military hub and maintain the Royal Navy’s fleet of warships.
Work on the mighty device, which is almost half the height of the Spinnaker Tower and capable of lifting weights of about 30 tonnes, is expected to begin in summer next year.
Dutch steel firm De Kok Staalbouw will be fitting the crane, which will become the tallest object on the naval base, towering 30m above the existing largest structure, the ship hall.
Once installed, the crane will provide the heavy-lifting muscle at docks 14 and 15 – where frigates and destroyers are repaired.
Expected to be fully in position by November next year, the lifting device will be capable of hauling the enormous weights with ease.
The news has delighted campaigners in Portsmouth who felt the piece of kit would strengthen the city’s hand in securing lucrative repair work for Britain’s new fleet of frigates, the Type 26.
Councillor Donna Jones, the city’s Tory chief and former leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘The announcement of the new “super” crane planned for HM Naval Base Portsmouth is a brilliant endorsement of Portsmouth’s capability and long-term future,’ she said.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that Portsmouth is the ideal and only location for the repair and maintenance works of the new Type 26 frigates.
‘Our capability being home to the new supercarriers makes Portsmouth one of the most sophisticated naval bases in the world and a key facility to support Nato capabilities.
‘This crane is key and it’s great news.’
The work is part of the £600m maritime services delivery framework contract awarded to BAE Systems in 2014 to both manage the naval base and carry out work to maintain the navy’s surface fleet.
Jon Pearson, warship support director with BAE Systems maritime services, was excited by the new piece of kit.
He said: ‘This new crane is one element of a wider infrastructure improvement plan for Portsmouth Naval Base that BAE Systems is committed to deliver jointly with the Royal Navy.
‘It will significantly increase our capability to support the deep maintenance of destroyers and frigates and forms part of our joint “Team Portsmouth” commitment to increasing the effectiveness of our operations on the base.’
The news comes after the naval base’s biggest stint of investment in a generation.
More than £100m has been pumped in to modernise the key military site and prepare it for the arrival of the navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, arrived last year.
Her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, is expected to arrive at some point next year.
As previously reported, defence secretary Gavin Williamson revealed all eight of the Type 26s would be based in Plymouth.
However, no official word has been given on where the ships will be repaired.
but a source at the MoD hinted to The News that Portsmouth could be in line to receive the contract which could be worth millions to the economy.