Cammell Laird set to build £150m disaster relief ship in Birkenhead

Leading charity Britannia Maritime Aid has launched a major fundraising drive to build the vessel, which will carry up to 6,000 tonnes of vehicles and aid supplies, by 2024. Tony McDonough reports

Cammell Laird
Cammell Laird will build the Britannia Maritime Aid disaster relief ship


Cammell Laird is set to build a £150m disaster relief ship at its Merseyside shipyard – if the charity behind the project can raise the money to fund it.

Britannia Maritime Aid (BMA) has launched a major fundraising drive at the UK Chamber of Shipping during London International Shipping Week. Once built, the vessel would be permanently based in the Caribbean, supporting disaster relief efforts and providing specialist training.

Birkenhead-based shipbuilder and engineering specialist Cammell Laird has co-designed the vessel. a variant of its Ro-Pax platform, developed in conjunction with ship designers Leadship and first unveiled at the Nor Shipping trade fair in Oslo this summer.

READ MORE: Mersey Maritime delegation heads to London International Shipping Week

Rather than being a one-off specialised vessel with limited applications, the first-of-its-kind disaster relief and training ship will have strong, versatile commercial Ro-Pax capability.

The vessel will be able to carry up to 6,000 tonnes of vehicles and aid supplies – more than 10 times the capacity of current vessels – including field hospitals, field kitchens, tents, fresh water and fuel for devastated areas.

Advanced technology

Tony Graham, Cammell Laird’s chief operating officer, said: “Working closely with the Leadship design house our commercial approach gave Britannia Maritime Aid confidence in their requirement trade-offs, procurement cost estimate and support cost estimate.

“This technical and cost due diligence underpins the Britannia Maritime Aid business case. Our commercial design ensures great value for money and protects the vessel’s resale value as a cutting-edge Ro-Pax.

“We have also managed to incorporate and consider advanced technology concepts such as autonomous vehicles to maximise its operational capability and its future relevance. A British-built ship encourages the British public to feel a sense of ownership of a Britannia Maritime Aid vessel working on their behalf and sailing under the Blue Ensign.”

Cammell Laird
The Britannia Maritime Aid disaster relief vessel will be based in the Caribbean


Maritime professionals and training experts have joined forces for the project with backing from former First Sea Lords, the Lord West of Spithead and Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh.

Others supporters include members of the Houses of Lords and Commons, ship designers Leadship, unions RMT and Nautilus International, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Merchant Navy Training Board the maritime charity London Trinity House and the Government of Barbados.

Sea training

As well as supporting humanitarian aid missions in the Caribbean, the vessel will provide sea training berths for the next generation of UK and Commonwealth officer cadets, rating apprentices and trainees in trades associated with aid and reconstruction.

Its crew will focus on the environment and ocean advocacy – including beach and coast clean ups, plastic collection and research.

BMA chairman Captain Kevin P Slade said: “Having a dedicated vessel with a training and aid function is a first of its kind for the UK and would ease the pressure on the limited resources that the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary can provide.

“It will be an innovative use of essential and finite funds, increasing the effectiveness of the UK’s disaster relief work whilst also increasing the supply of British seafarers and supporting ocean advocacy.”  

BMA aims to deliver its ship by 2024, and will charter or buy suitable ships to run operations until its purpose-built ship is ready. It has started a crowdfunding campaign for initial costs but intends to gain long-term funding from the Government, industry, the private sector and benefactors.

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