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Large Royal Navy Supply Ship Sails in for Volvo Cork Week

12th July 2016
One of the largest UK naval ships, RFA Fort Rosalie a tanker/supplies vessel of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary arrived to Cork Harbour this morning, to berth at Cobh where cruiseships normally occupy One of the largest UK naval ships, RFA Fort Rosalie a tanker/supplies vessel of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary arrived to Cork Harbour this morning, to berth at Cobh where cruiseships normally occupy Photo: Royal Navy

#LargeUKvisitor - One of the largest UK naval vessels is at time of writing arriving into Cork Harbour this morning to coincide with Royal Cork Yacht Club’s Volvo Week, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The visit of RFA Fort Rosalie is also in the same year of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Irish Naval Service in 1946.

RFA Fort Rosalie (A385) is one of a pair of Fort Class Solid Support Tanker replenishment vessels of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She along with RFA Fort Austin and the overall RFA fleet also supply food, stores and ammunition to the Royal Navy fleet, whilst underway.

Also this morning, Naval Service CPV L.É. Orla, formerly HMS Swift of the Royal Navy Hong Kong Maritime Squadron met the 185m long auxiliary vessel off the entrance to Cork Harbour.

The RFA Fort Rosalie drawing 8m draft, had sailed from the French Naval Base at Brest, is to berth at Cobh’s deepwater quay. 

Opposite of Cobh is Haulbowline Island where the Irish Naval Service Base is located and where the last major commemoration event, the 50th anniversary of the navy was held this month 20 years ago. On that occasion in July 1996 several foreign navies including the Royal Navy's HMS Manchester attended the 'Jubilee' event. The highlight I recall was the Fleet Review in Cork Harbour led by flagship L.É. Eithne.

The London registered 23,384 tonnes displacement RFA Fort Rosalie earlier this year at Portsmouth Naval Base assisted harbour tugs. This concerned an opportunity to put in some practice of towing large vessels ahead of the arrival next year of the 65,000 displacement tonnes HMS Queen Elizabeth. 

One of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance contractors is Babcock International which to date has built the Naval Service OPV90 trio in which newbuild LE James Joyce is expected to be delivered next month.

As for the first of a pair of ‘QE’ new aircraft carriers under construction in Scotland, HMS Queen Elizabeth is to replace HMS Illustrious (see final Dublin call previously reported on Also see report on retirement as this year the UK's MOD announced that she is to be scrapped following the fate of her two ‘Invincible’ class sisters.

RFA Fort Rosalie is nearly 100m shorter and nearly three times lighter than the new carrier and sister HMS Prince of Wales. The Fort class auxiliary tanker-supplier ship is still considerably larger than any warship currently based in Portsmouth.

On the approaches to Portsmouth off the Nab Tower, some ten miles to the entrance to the port RFA Fort Rosalie was met by privately operated tugs from Serco, the Bountiful, Indulgent and Independent. The role of tugs had previously been part of RFA operations.

RFA Fort Rosalie built in 1978 and RFA Fort Austin each has a range of 10,000 miles at 20 knots, though the top speed can be 22 knots.

The Fort class have extensive aviation facilities, with 2 flight decks, one at the stern and one spot on top of the hanger. They have the ability to replenish at sea via 6 replenishment stations, three on each side as well as using helicopters for vertical replenishment (VERTREP).

Among defences, the pair have the Phalanx system, one of the deadly last lines of defence for the UK navy. Capable of engaging targets around one mile away, it is a radar-controlled Gatling gun which fires 20mm shells, that spews out 3,000 rounds a minute.

This is designed to engage incoming enemy aircraft and missiles if they penetrated a ship or task group's outer ring of defences such as Sea Viper or Sea Dart.

Published in Naval Visits
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Naval Visits focuses on forthcoming courtesy visits by foreign navies from our nearest neighbours, to navies from European Union and perhaps even those navies from far-flung distant shores.

In covering these Naval Visits, the range of nationality arising from these vessels can also be broad in terms of the variety of ships docking in our ports.

The list of naval ship types is long and they perform many tasks. These naval ships can include coastal patrol vessels, mine-sweepers, mine-hunters, frigates, destroyers, amphibious dock-landing vessels, helicopter-carriers, submarine support ships and the rarer sighting of submarines.

When Naval Visits are made, it is those that are open to the public to come on board, provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate up close and personal, what these look like and what they can do and a chance to discuss with the crew.

It can make even more interesting for visitors when a flotilla arrives, particularly comprising an international fleet, adding to the sense of curiosity and adding a greater mix to the type of vessels boarded.

All of this makes Naval Visits a fascinating and intriguing insight into the role of navies from abroad, as they spend time in our ports, mostly for a weekend-long call, having completed exercises at sea.

These naval exercises can involve joint co-operation between other naval fleets off Ireland, in the approaches of the Atlantic, and way offshore of the coasts of western European countries.

In certain circumstances, Naval Visits involve vessels which are making repositioning voyages over long distances between continents, having completed a tour of duty in zones of conflict.

Joint naval fleet exercises bring an increased integration of navies within Europe and beyond. These exercises improve greater co-operation at EU level but also internationally, not just on a political front, but these exercises enable shared training skills in carrying out naval skills and also knowledge.

Naval Visits are also reciprocal, in that the Irish Naval Service, has over the decades, visited major gatherings overseas, while also carrying out specific operations on many fronts.

Ireland can, therefore, be represented through these ships that also act as floating ambassadorial platforms, supporting our national interests.

These interests are not exclusively political in terms of foreign policy, through humanitarian commitments, but are also to assist existing trade and tourism links and also develop further.

Equally important is our relationship with the Irish diaspora, and to share this sense of identity with the rest of the World.

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