UK’s First-Ever Future Subsea Surveillance Vessel Reaches Merseyside For Conversion

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has reportedly bought a second-hand commercial offshore patrol ship from P&O Maritime Logistics’ subsidiary dubbed the Topaz Energy and Marine for the conversion into a specialist vessel dedicated to safeguarding the nation’s subsea infrastructure.

The vessel, currently operating MV Topaz Tangaroa, reached Cammell Laird shipyard based in Birkenhead to undergo refitting on 19 January 2023.

subsea protection ship
Credits: Vard

Topaz Tangaroa is expected to be converted into the first of the two planned and proposed Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance (MROS) vessels for seabed warfare and underwater surveillance, to be operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).

Per the MoD, the ship will be handed over formally to control the RFA in the coming days. Following the execution of conversion activities, the vessel is expected to join the fleet in mid-2023.

Topaz Tangaroa, expected to be renamed for RFA service, was constructed by a Norwegian shipbuilder named Vard and delivered in 2019 to Topaz Energy and Marine. Since then, it has been utilized for supporting underwater operations, including activities on oil rigs, construction, maintenance, inspection activities, and autonomous submarine operations.

It measures 98.1 m in length. It boasts a beam of 20 m and a deadweight displacement of about 3,000 tons. It is equipped with a crane, helipad, and a vast working deck, and it also features a moon pool in the underside of the hull for the through-hull launch and the retrieval of submersible capabilities.

The vessel will be fitted with next-gen sensors for the new role and carry remotely operated and autonomous underwater vehicles for seabed warfare and surveillance missions.

References: Rivera News, Janes

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