Hythe Marine Services team up with the Royal Navy crew onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for pit stop service and maintenance.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth is the newest flagship within her class of aircraft carriers. Capable of carrying up to 40 F-35 Lightning jets and weighing an astounding 65,000 tonnes HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest, and arguably the most impressive, vessel ever built for the Royal Navy.
In August this year Hythe Marine Services (HMS) Technical Director Luke Fitzgerald, a Hythe Marine veteran of over thirteen years, was contracted to carry out routine maintenance work on HMS Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth’s naval base.
Unlike normal service pit stops this one required rapid response from the HMS team who needed to ensure HMS Queen Elizabeth was fighting fit and ready to dock-out in record time, ahead of the vessels departure for sea trials in America.
Quality of workmanship, speed and efficiency is essential when working within the fleet, delays and or unforeseen repair work can not only cost a huge amount of money, but cause knock on effects for the ship and crews entire operational schedule.
As Luke explained, “Not just any welder can jump in and do the work we do, as you must have specialist qualifications. Any of the welding undertaken on these vessels requires you to be a Lloyds registered welder before you’re even permitted to step onboard. To do this we weld a pipe (or a test piece) in our workshop, Lloyds witness it and then it gets sent away for testing. When Lloyds confirm the test piece qualifies within their quality standards, then you’re allowed on the ship. Every time we do a job we are required to submit evidence that then gets sent to a third party for non-destructive testing, to prove the quality is there.”
One of Luke’s jobs was the inspection and maintenance of sea inlets onboard the aircraft carrier. Sea inlets are used to allow water into the ship to cool machinery. By their nature these pipes are regularly exposed to salt water and as such detailed maintenance and care is essential. You have to know what to look for so you can spot any possible signs of wear in the early stages, make repairs and avoid costly delays.
One of the things that sets HMS apart is their deep history within the industry, Luke in particular has worked on every vessel across the Royal Navy fleet and knows the crews and managers well.
As Luke commented, “We are acutely aware that time is of the essence for the Royal Navy. Requests for support might come in at the last minute and you need to be able to respond instantly, retaining the skills in-house, to get the job done right there and then. My mission is to keep service and maintenance disruption to a minimum by keeping an eye on metal work and ensuring it’s looked after well.
The key thing about HMS ship repair welders is that we can do the same quality of work as someone in a spacious workshop, but in the rather limited confines of a ship. We know the crews, the rules and regulations so rather than losing time and money by having to remove parts and bring them back ashore for servicing, our team wedge themselves into some rather interesting spaces to get the job done onboard. The result is valuable time saving for the Royal Navy and in some cases quick solutions to what otherwise might be seen as a mission impossible.”
Luke wasn’t the only Hythe Marine Engineer onboard that day, Greg Strange, an HMS Production Engineer, was busy collaborating with BAE Systems on designs and drawings for the installation of new ramp lights.
HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail at the end of August to carry out F-35 Lightning sea trials in North East America, we look forward to seeing her back in Portsmouth with HMS Prince of Wales soon!
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