PREPARATIONS are underway for a new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier to visit Portsmouth - as two 95 tonne additions to the naval base were put in place.
A pair of Fender Spacer Units were lifted onto special transportation vehicles from their construction site at ML Ltd, in Kettering Terrace, Portsmouth, before being taken to the Portsmouth Naval Base.
The units will act as a bumper, absorbing the impact of a 65,000 tonne ship – HMS Prince of Wales - berthing against the jetty.
Each of the FSUs costs more than £1m to make and will last for over 20 years, allowing another Royal Navy aircraft carrier to berth in the base.
The director of ML Ltd, Martin Hobson, said the two structures will be ‘integral’ to the operation of the aircraft carriers.
He said: ‘There are only two ports in the UK that could accommodate Queen Elizabeth carriers, and without the FSUs they cannot berth.
‘They will be taken to the Naval Base, where they will undergo factory tests on Friday.
‘The fenders are built to Lloyd's Register standard – the same standard as the carriers themselves.’
More than a dozen workers were on site to oversee the moving of the units, which have taken ten months to build.
The units are ‘the biggest piece of equipment’ the 30-man steel fabrication company has worked on over the last year, and it puts the business ‘in good stead' to move on to even bigger projects, according to Martin.
He said: ‘We’re a small local steel manufacture company – but we have been here for 30 years and have done extensive work for the navy.’
Existing fenders used to berth Royal Navy carriers have been built in the Netherlands, but Martin said ‘the strength of the pound’ was a ‘big factor’ in the UK firm winning recent contracts like building the new FSUs.
He said: ‘It makes a bigger difference when it comes to getting contracts.
‘We’re bidding on projects that would not otherwise have been part of because the pound helps us to compete.’
The new units will be put into use when the new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales visits Portsmouth later in the year.