VT day: warship stands by for launch

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The Independent Online

The first ship to be built at Portsmouth's naval base in nearly four decades, the HMS Clyde, is to be officially named this week.

The traditional ceremony will be carried out by Lesley Dunt, wife of the Director of Defence Estates, Vice Admiral Peter Dunt. The ship, which has been built by support services specialist VT, will then be deployed next spring to patrol the Falkland Islands, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War. The 80-metre, 1,850-ton vessel is the first ship to be built at Portsmouth since HMS Andromeda was finished in 1967.

Under a five-year support agreement with the Ministry of Defence, VT will remain the owner of the ship and be responsible for its upkeep, ensuring that it is available for around nine months a year. After the five years are up, the Royal Navy can buy the ship, return it or extend the contract.

VT has already run similar maintenance contracts on ships used for fisheries protection in the UK. This will be the first time it is applied from such a distance, however. The deal also falls in line with the Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS), the Government's new procurement policy that pushes for greater support responsibilities to be handed to private industry.

"It's a good example of how we've taken the DIS principles and actually applied them in a true partnership between Government and industry," said Francis Paonessa, the managing director of the Portsmouth shipbuilding facility.

The vessel will be manned by 36 Royal Navy sailors.

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