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New Serco tug paves way for arrival of Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers into Portsmouth

Published: 31 May 2017

SD Tempest, the newest tug to be added to Serco’s fleet of specialist support vessels, was officially named today at a ceremony at Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth.  SD Tempest is the most powerful, capable and manoeuvrable tug to enter service with Serco and she has been specifically procured to support the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, which are the largest warships to ever be constructed for the Royal Navy. 

SD Tempest is the 31st vessel to be built for Serco by Damen Shipyards.  She sailed into her home port of Portsmouth for the first time on 22nd February 2017.  Since then, she has since completed a series of operational trials, completed crew familiarisation and is now completely ready to support the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.

Clare Hinton, wife of SD Tempest’s Master, Rob Hinton, ‘christened’ SD Tempest by smashing a champagne bottle across the bows of the ship in the traditional manner.  The naming ceremony was held in front of 300 specially invited guests including senior naval officers, Serco employees, crew and families on the waterfront at the base.

The project to build SD Tempest brought together the latest technology from the global shipping industry for the Royal Navy and combined the expertise of the Ministry of Defence, Serco and Damen.  The Serco project team and the vessel’s crew were involved with Damen in the design, trials and testing of Tempest and they have also trained with Admiralty pilots and members of the ship’s company to ensure that they are completely ready for the first carrier entry into Portsmouth Harbour.  Crew training has also taken place on the Tempest’s sister ships used in the commercial sector in the Netherlands ensuring this experience and knowledge is shared and that the vessel and crew are fully prepared for her future role. 

SD Tempest has been procured by Serco for the Royal Navy’s Defence Marine Services under an innovative amendment to the current contract which has meant that the Ministry of Defence has not had to pay any additional money for the procurement.  

Commenting on the naming ceremony, Rupert Soames, Serco’s Group Chief Executive, said: “SD Tempest is a powerful addition to Serco’s fleet in this ‘Year of the Navy’ and we look forward to seeing her shepherd HMS Queen Elizabeth into Portsmouth harbour when she arrives later this year. The innovative approach to the procurement taken by the Royal Navy and Serco has meant we can meet the future needs of the RN at no extra cost to the taxpayer.  Serco has been trusted by the Royal Navy to help put ships to sea for over 20 years and we are really proud of our track record of achieving over 99.9% of tasks successfully.”

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About SD Tempest

SD Tempest is a Damen ART 80-32 tug with a bollard pull of 80 tons and is the most powerful tug in Serco’s fleet and arguably the most capable in the UK.  She has a crew of four, is 31.95m long, has a beam of 12.6m and a gross tonnage of 495 GT.

She is the first tug in the UK that features the RotorTug® propulsion system consisting of three azimuthing thrusters, which provide omni-directional manoeuvrability, designed by Robert Allen in Canada, making her one of the most manoeuvrable and capable tugs in the UK.  They also have controllable pitch propellers installed instead of the usual fixed pitch propellers found on other vessels in her class.  

Serco also specified a number of modifications to enable her to support the new aircraft carriers, including a double drum render/recovery aft winch for redundancy and a foldable mast for safe working under the flight deck overhang. Like previous tugs, SD Tempest is fitted with grey fendering to match the colour of RN vessels and prevent marking the hulls. 

About Serco Maritime Services

Serco supports the Royal Navy at Portsmouth, Devonport, Falmouth and in Scotland and operates one of the largest fleet of British flagged vessels. We operate 109 vessels with a range of specialist capabilities for the Royal Navy and we have procured 32 new vessels since the contract began in 2007, with two more under construction with Damen.  Every year we perform around 14,000 tasks for the Royal Navy, 99.9% of which are performed on time and as requested by our customers.


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