Sunderland’s adopted warship leaves dock after major work

HMS Ocean leaving the Port of Sunderland.

HMS Ocean leaving the Port of Sunderland.

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SUNDERLAND’S adopted warship reaches an important milestone in its renovation this week.

HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s largest warship, is looking to be back to its former glory after undergoing an extensive 15-month overhaul.

The popular 22,500-tonne amphibious assault vessel has been partnered with Sunderland since March 2004, when she was granted freedom of the city, and visits Wearside frequently.

After much work, the 667ft long warship, nicknamed The Mighty O, emerged from the dock at Babcock’s Devonport Royal Dockyard after an extensive renovation programme that included more than 60 upgrades, mechanical improvements, and an extensive maintenance package.

The Ocean is the only vessel of its kind in the UK, and has the capacity to transport 40 land vehicles, up to 18 helicopters, 830 Royal Marines, and an added crew of over 300.

HMS Ocean has been involved in military action in Sierra Leone in 2000, Iraq in 2003, and Libya in 2011, having also been deployed to rescue stranded passengers and military personnel following the ash cloud crisis in 2010.

The work has been achieved on-schedule after seven months in dock, halfway through the multimillion-pound 15 month overhaul programme.

Mike Whalley, Babcock warship supporting managing director, said: “This is a highly complex and challenging both technically and in terms of project management, and we are delighted to have met this significant undocking milestone on schedule, thanks to hard work by all parties.

“There is still considerable work to be done, and the team will now focus on continuing to maintain this strong progress through the rest of the project.”

Kevin Barry, of the Ministry of Defence’s Defence, Equipment and Support group, said: “I’m particularly encouraged by the strong team ethos which has been vital to overcoming some significant challenges in getting to this project milestone.

“We’re now focused on successful delivery of this hugely capable and versatile platform back to the fleet.”

The crew will move on board early in November, and HMS Ocean is expected to leave its temporary port in Plymouth and return to active service by early 2014.