Special delivery as work on Royal Navy’s next carrier begins

NEW ARRIVAL A generator for the navy's second aircraft carrier is lifted at BAE systems in Portsmouth
NEW ARRIVAL A generator for the navy's second aircraft carrier is lifted at BAE systems in Portsmouth

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THE shipbuilding hall at BAE Systems’ yard in Portsmouth didn’t stay empty for long.

Just weeks after giant sections of the first of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers were shipped up to Scotland, work has started on the second of the two 65,000-tonne warships.

And with the arrival of two diesel generators, construction of HMS Prince of Wales is once again filling up the vast hall.

A 1,000-tonne crane was needed to lift the generators out of a barge which had brought them from Italy on Wednesday.

It was a key moment at the start of the project to build a 6,000-tonne mid-section of the ship’s hull by early 2014.

The 12-cylinder Wärtsilä generators weigh 160-tonnes each. Two more will be fitted in another section of the ship on the Clyde.

Combined with two Rolls-Royce gas turbines, each ship will produce 110 megawatts of energy – enough to power Porstea Island.

‘When you’re playing with a train set, the pieces don’t get much bigger than this,’ said Paul Bowsher, who manages BAE’s carrier project in Portsmouth.

‘This is a big day for us. We’ve been waiting for the units to arrive because we have to build the ship around them.’

After 10 weeks of painting and preparation, the generators will be installed in the bowels of the hull section in November.

The process is a repeat of what happened with the construction of the first ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Mr Bowsher said: ‘It does feel a little bit like deja vu.

‘But we learned a lot lessons from the last time. We’d never done anything on this scale before so we have the advantage of hindsight this time.’

Work continues under a cloud of uncertainty over Portsmouth’s shipbuilding future once the carrier project ends.

Some 1,300 jobs could be lost in the yard if BAE executives decide to stop building ships in the city.

Asked if he was worried about what the future may hold, Mr Bowsher said: ‘Everybody is aware of the speculation but we are really just focused on the next milestone and today was a big example of what we need to achieve.

‘This build goes through to 2014, so we are focussed on the here and now.’