BRAZILIAN sailors are visiting Portsmouth and learning how to handle their new BAE Systems-built warships.
In January the defence giant signed a contract worth £133m to sell three Ocean Patrol Vessels originally built for the government of Trinidad and Tobago.
Now around 80 members of the Brazilian navy are taking part in a range of training courses in the city – covering areas such as electronics, weapons, seamanship and propulsion.
The preparations are being made ahead of the handover of the first ship, Amazonas, at the end of June.
After this the ship’s company will spend a period familiarising themselves with their new vessel, before sailing her down to Devonport for sea training.
MP for Portsmouth South and cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, Mike Hancock, said: ‘This is an excellent thing to be happening, whether the sailors are from India, Brazil or anywhere in the world.
‘If they are buying ships and we are selling them we benefit all the way round. I hope we can get more work from them – it is good for BAE and a really good example of how things come together.
‘It is also a positive sign and adds to my feeling of optimism about BAE in the future. I just hope I’m right.’
BAE’s contract also contains a manufacturing licence to enable further vessels of the same class to be constructed in Brazil.
The three 295ft (90m) vessels are capable of speeds of more than 25 knots and weigh 2,200 tonnes when fully loaded.
This year will see the delivery of the first two, while the third will follow in early 2013.
Tory deputy leader Cllr Donna Jones said she still has concerns about the future of BAE in Portsmouth, but was pleased to see such a successful deal.
‘There are very positive green shoots coming out at the moment,’ she said.
‘Clearly the company is doing all it can to try and keep its operations in Portsmouth open.’
Rear Admiral Francisco Deiana, the Brazilian navy’s director of naval engineering, said: ‘The acquisition of these three Ocean Patrol Vessels from BAE Systems will make an important contribution to both our ability to provide security and protection to Brazil’s jurisdictional waters and to deliver our commitments to the Brazilian Maritime Authority.’
The ships were originally built for the government of Trinidad and Tobago under a contract signed in 2007 – but this was terminated in late 2010.
The first ship was constructed at BAE’s Portsmouth facility and the other two at its shipyard on the Clyde.