'No current plans' for dry dock for Royal Navy carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales in Portsmouth, government says

COLD water has been poured on plans for a huge dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Base for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 6:00 am
he Strike Group comprising HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Dragon, HMS Northumberland and RFA Tideforce continues to train alongside the US military. Picture: LPhot Kyle Heller

Hopes were raised for the ambitious plan set to create 100 jobs and bring £1bn to the city over 10 years.

But defence minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has dealt a blow the scheme to convert Number 2 basin to take the 932ft carriers when maintenance is needed.

The News understands proposals are still being worked on but the government has ‘yet to make a decision’.

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HMS Prince Of Wales at sea

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Answering a parliamentary written question, Mrs Trevelyan said: ‘The Ministry of Defence has no current plans to construct a dry-dock facility for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.

‘Plans for a long-term in-service support solution for the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are under consideration as part of the Common Support Model for complex warships.

‘However, on current plans, routine scheduled repair and refitting of the two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, other than dry-docking, will be conducted at Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth and will sustain jobs at that site.’

HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is based in Portsmouth with soon-to-arrive sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, completed a dry dock inspection at Rosyth, Scotland, ahead of exercise Westlant19.

At the time the Royal Navy said the £3.1bn warship ‘should not need to dock down again for another six years’.

Stephen Morgan, who as MP for Portsmouth South before parliament was dissolved, wrote to Mrs Trevelayn said the city was the ‘only choice’ for the super dry dock.

In a statement he said: ‘It is clear from my constant correspondence, questions and lobbying of ministers that the government is not serious about our city or our Royal Navy.

‘The economic benefits to the city, new job prospects and history as heart and home of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth is not the preferred choice, but the only choice.’

Mr Morgan has lobbied on the issue and in a letter said the facility 'would be a natural fit with the city and would provide a well needed economic boost to the community', adding the naval base's work supports 17,000 people and generates 26,000 defence jobs in the region.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace yesterdaystopped a £1.5bn contract for three new Fleet Solid Support ships as admirals said bidders were 'not compliant' with terms or giving value for money.

That will bring hope the vessels could be built in the UK.

Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt said a super dry dock in Portsmouth would need to be kept busy.

Asked if the dry dock plan was dead in the water, the Portsmouth North incumbent, told The News: ‘No, I’ve had some recent updates from the navy and the base commander.

‘There’s all sorts of plans for what they might do down there, and I think they’re right to be really ambitious.

‘I’m working with a number of organisations, from Britannia (Maritime) Aid to Cammell Laird and to others in the maritime sector to really look at how we turbo-charge shipbuilding in the UK.

‘When I was secretary of state I changed the policy to ensure that in future we could build a fleet solid support ships in the UK.

‘I want us to develop one government maritime capability so that means logistics ships, hospital ships, we could use them as training platforms.’

She added: ‘This needs to be brought together. I believe passionately in our heritage and our future as a maritime nation and this is one of the things I have been working on for some time and will continue to do so.

‘In which case, if we have long order books, if we give the industry confidence then there’s no reason why the UK can’t have two giant dry docks - one at one end of the country, and one at the other end. I think all options are on the table.’