Babcock invests in technically advanced shipbuilding facility

Posted on 11 December, 2020 by Advance 

Babcock has awarded a £31.5 million contract to Robertson Construction for the development of a new Assembly Hall at its Rosyth site.


Construction of the new Assembly Hall at Babcock's Rosyth site.
Image courtesy Babcock

The construction project will support circa 100 positions locally in Scotland and a further 100 positions nationally throughout the supply chain.

At a small Covid-19 safe ceremony marking the beginning of the steel structure construction, Babcock also announced that it has placed an order for PEMA welding and production panel lines to support the automation of shipbuilding.

This is part of a £55 million investment programme currently underway on the site, on top of a further £100 million that has been invested over the last decade, ensuring Rosyth’s shipbuilding capability and capacity can be optimised to support further opportunities, with state of the art engineering infrastructure and digital innovation at its heart.

Standing at 147 metres long, the hall includes 30 metres' high, aptly named ‘megadoors’, the Assembly Hall will initially be used for the Type 31 general purpose frigate programme and provides a modern, future-ready facility designed to assemble two vessels side by side. Free from weather disruption, the facility will enable productivity gains due to improved access and digital connectivity.

Advancements inside the Assembly Hall include the use of handheld devices that will underpin the efficient flow of materials with lean thinking applied to all aspects of the build and operations. Gantry stair access inside the structure also removes the need for traditional scaffolding, enabling safe access to the vessels without leaving the building.

Additionally, three new panel lines, a cornerstone of Babcock’s digital transformation at Rosyth, will create significant efficiencies in the manufacturing process. Work has already started on the refurbishment and extension of the existing manufacturing bay which will house the panel lines.

Each PEMA production line is based on modern shipbuilding technology that enables Babcock to raise its level of automation. PEMA Thin plate panel line is equipped with the latest technologies, such as plate edge milling and robotic welding which enable high-quality production of various panel types. PEMA T-beam fabrication line is designed to make straight T-beams without any additional straightening processes.

Babcock marked the new Assembly Hall construction milestone by burying a commemorative time capsule at the site of the new facility.

John Howie, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Babcock said: “The Type 31 programme is re-energising the UKs’ maritime capability through innovative, next generation, UK ship design and build. The infrastructure investment underway at Rosyth builds on our exceptional heritage, experience and engineering insight, delivering a very real step change in capacity and capability for modern UK shipbuilding.

“It’s great to see the progress being made across the programme as we invest in new infrastructure and technologies to support the build phase of these fantastic new frigates. I know the team are looking forward to working closely with Robertson Construction on the development of the new Assembly Hall and with PEMA on the installation of the panel lines.”

David Cairns, regional managing director, Robertson Construction, commented: “The provision of this facility will further enhance the delivery capabilities of Babcock from the Rosyth site. We are pleased to be selected as the delivery partner of choice for the new Assembly Hall.”

Progress of the Type 31 facilities at Rosyth site follows a successful whole-ship Preliminary Design Review held in June 2020, which provided a key indicator of the compliance and design maturity. The programme is currently progressing through the Detailed Design phase.

Team 31 is already operating across the UK in Rosyth, Bristol, Devonport and Crawley, with recruitment underway to support the growth of the programme and mobilisation in readiness for ship build at Rosyth starting next year. At its height approximately 1,250 people will work on the programme across the UK, with Robertson committing significant orders to local Scottish suppliers for the Assembly Hall build.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace welcomed the start of steel construction of Babcock’s mammoth module hall in a virtual message of support. He said: “Defence underpins a wealth of jobs and investment across the entire United Kingdom. Babcock’s ‘frigate factory’ in Rosyth demonstrates the huge footprint of prosperity that defence brings.

“This vast industrial facility will see Scottish shipbuilders build our latest warships that will take pride of place in the Royal Navy fleet.”

Ground-breaking for the new hall commenced in April 2020. The steel structures are now in place in preparation for Ship Assembly, which will commence in 2021. Equipped with state-of-the art manufacturing facilities and new digital systems, the programme represents a revitalisation of the shipbuilding industry.

The unveiling of the Module Hall follows the substantial £16.5 billion settlement for Defence over the next four years that will modernise the armed forces, reinvigorate the shipbuilding industry and bring jobs and prosperity to every part of the UK.

Learning lessons from previous programmes to reinvigorate the shipbuilding capabilities at Rosyth, the new hall will have gantry stair access inside the structure to remove the need for scaffolding. This means personnel will be able to safely access the vessels without leaving the building.

Type 31 will be the beating heart of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet, deterring aggression and supporting the UK’s national interests across the world. The programme's employment of more than 1,250 people across the UK, will create a legacy of infrastructure, innovation and skills for the shipbuilding sector. Off the back of the programme, Babcock have also jumpstarted a further 150 apprentice roles to set the sector up for success in the next generation.