Landmark maintenance contract secures uninterrupted operation of UK's premiere naval dockyard


Landmark maintenance contract secures uninterrupted operation of UK's premiere naval dockyard

Rotork has won a landmark contract with Fleet Support Ltd for the maintenance of seventy-three electric valve actuators that control the safe movement of millions of tonnes of water during the flooding and emptying of giant dry docks and locks at the HM Naval Base in Portsmouth.

The contract, described as a "win-win" solution for both involved parties by Fleet Support Facilities Plant Maintenance Manager Mick Huitson, will rely on Rotork's Site Services department to keep the actuators in first class operating condition and minimise the risk of unexpected interruptions to this vital dockyard function.

Capable of handling warships and commercial vessels of virtually every size and description, the 350 acre Portsmouth Naval Base has four locks and twelve dry docks, mainly dating from the early twentieth century. These are served by a network of several miles of subterranean two-metre diameter culverts, connecting three main pumping stations to the locks and docks.

Cast iron penstocks and gate valves on the network were retrofitted with Rotork electric actuators in five phases between 1983 and 1996, replacing pneumatic equipment as part of a major refurbishment programme. Most of the actuators are sited in pits about two metres below road level and subject to harsh environmental conditions, including salt water spray, dust and rain. In spite of these challenging conditions, Mick Huitson confirms that the actuators have generally survived very well, due to the integrity of the Rotork double-sealed watertight enclosure design.

Fleet Support Ltd, a commercial organisation with a Ministry of Defence pedigree, has been operating in Portsmouth Naval Base since 1998 and in partnership with the Naval Base Commander, provides ship repair, facilities management and logistics.

Mick Huitson, who looks after everything from bikes to cranes and pumping stations, explains the significance of the actuator maintenance contract: "For operational and safety reasons, the movement of millions of tonnes of seawater in and out of locks and docks must be strictly controlled by a safe system of work. Each actuator has a unique key and can only be operated by a competent person when its key is drawn as part of a secure, planned sequence prepared by Salt Water Planner Bob Powell, in accordance with operational demands and the state of the tide. Actuator failures would cause severe disruption whilst back-up measures were instigated."

"The contract gives us peace of mind with this critically important operation. Rotork engineers have surveyed and serviced all the actuators and maintenance has been carried out in accordance with their recommendations, either in-situ or at the Rotork factory. Repaired actuators are re-commissioned with a new 12 month warranty - by handing over care to the manufacturer it's a win-win situation for both companies. We have developed a good working relationship with Rotork, who are very helpful and provide excellent technical support."

Fleet Support's work at Portsmouth encompasses contracts with the Royal Navy, overseas navies and commercial shipping, as well as facilities management contracts beyond the perimeters of the Naval Base. Recently completed dockyard orders include repairs to the badly damaged destroyer HMS Nottingham and the American guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill.