February 17, 2008
U.K.'s Fleet Tankers could be built in Korea
Britain's planned next generation of Fleet Tankers for its Royal Fleet Auxiliary will likely have a "made in Korea" label, if a consortium led by BAE Systems is successful
BAE Systems has submitted a response to a U.K. Ministry of Defence Pre-Qualifying Questionnaire (PQQ) to design and build up to six of the fleet tankers for the RFA. The company will partner with BMT Defence Services Ltd and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. (DSME) to bid for the contract for the ships, the first part of the U.K.'s planned Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) program.
BAE Systems through its Surface Fleet Solutions business will act as lead contractor and program manager, BMT will be the design partner and the ships are planned to be built by DSME in Korea. BAE Systems says that this approach "combines the best global experience in both commercial and military shipbuilding."
The Fleet Tankers will replace the current RFA ships and comply with IMO double-hull requirements for double-hulled tanker operation. They will be classed by Lloyd's Register to +100A1 NSA.
The British Government has decided that the ships will be categorized as commercial rather than military, thus allowing them to be built outside the U.K.
Concept material from the Ministry of Defence shows a ship that is essentially a tanker forward of an accommodation deckhouse with a very untankerlike flight deck aft. There is also a requirement to provide for astern refueling. The speed requirements of a fleet auxiliary will also likely dictate a longer, finer hullform than that of a commercial tanker.
BAE Systems says that the U.K.'s planned aircraft carrier construction program means that there will be no available yard capacity in the U.K. to build the fleet tankers.
However, Vic Emery, managing director of BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions, says that "while it is intended that all vessels will be constructed in Korea, a unique feature the consortium offers, in terms of flexibility, is the ability to provide U.K. build options, should such an approach become necessary."
K. W. Cheong, director of DSME Special Ship Management says "This is an excellent opportunity for co-operation between our two countries; the U.K. being the home of naval shipbuilding and Korea as the hub of commercial shipbuilding. I think the combination of BAE Systems' extensive naval domain knowledge with our own skills and resources will produce excellent results."
The MARS program would become part of the workload of the proposed maritime joint venture between BAE Systems and VT Group, to be called BVT Surface Fleet, upon its completion.
The BAE proposal may not be the end of the story. A large number of international shipbuilders have told the Ministry of Defence that they are interested in bidding--including General Dynamics-NASSCO.