Friday, May 27, 2011

The Point-class Ro-Ro ships: getting the forces where they must go

Unglamorous but fundamental 

The Point class Ro-Ro ships

Project designation:  SR(Sea) 7047 (JRRF Revise)
Status: In service
In Service Date:  Target ISD for the full service was January 2004, target achieved in 2003 ahead of schedule.
Purpose: A worldwide strategic sealift service, based on six ship capability, to deliver JRRF early entry equipment into theatre.  

Operational experience in the 1990's (Gulf War, Bosnia, ... ) demonstrated the difficulties the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had in rapidly obtaining and chartering suitable ships to move military equipment in the short timescales demanded by the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces, and for supporting the Armed Forces’ needs in operations worldwide. 

The Strategic Defence Review 1998 identified a need for six Roll-On Roll-Off vessels (Ro-Ro) to give an improved strategic sealift capability to support the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces. Operational experience has demonstrated the difficulties in obtaining suitable ships to move military equipment in the short timescales demanded by the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces, and for the Armed Forces' needs in operations worldwide. An improved strategic sealift capability was a commitment in the SDR. It will play a key role in fulfilling the Armed Forces' equipment lift requirements in a wide range of operations, including those involving the deployment of the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces.

The full six-ship service is only required for major operation and exercise, so the MOD has pursued a contract for a long term service under the Private Finance Initiative. Under the terms of the contract the service provider can make ships available for the generation of commercial revenue, at times when they are not needed by MOD - thus delivering better value for money for the taxpayer.

The ships providing the service are equipped and classed as merchant ships. As the requirement is non warlike, the competition was conducted under EC Treaty and public procurement rules, within which the Government has ensured that the four competing bidders - NOVOMAR, The Maersk Company, A.W.S.R.Shipping Ltd, and Sealion - gave British shipyards every opportunity to bid for a share of the work The decision represents the best value for money for defence, having regard to price, quality and delivery.

On 26 October 2000 Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced the selection of preferred bidders for the MOD's landing ship and Strategic Sealift requirements. This package of work secured over 2,000 jobs and create 1,000 new jobs in the UK's shipbuilding industry.

A preferred bidder was selected on 26 October 2000 for the strategic sealift service. A.W.S.R. Shipping Ltd was selected as the preferred bidder for the 25-year Private Finance Initiative contract to provide this service. The preferred bidder is a UK company and the contract provides considerable UK employment opportunities, not just in shipbuilding but through supply of equipment, service operation and provision of crews. Over the life of the contract, it has been estimated that up to 85% of the total service price, - probably over £800M - will be spent in the UK. While the ships are in MOD use, they are fully crewed by British merchant seamen. AWSR Shipping Ltd provides British officers and crews for the ships while in MOD use. The seafarers are eligible for call out as Sponsored Reserves for operational requirements. The contract might be worth approximately £950M by 2024, depending upon the amount of operational usage. When not in MOD use, the crew is often multinational, but with British officers.

AWSR Shipping Ltd (now known as Foreland Shipping Limited) was formed in July 1999 to bid for the MoD Strategic Sealift Service. It consists of four UK companies which together are able to provide the key elements of the service required to operate the Strategic Sealift Service – ship design and engineering, ship management, specialist ship operation and marine personnel management. The four companies are Houlder Offshore Engineering Ltd, Andrew Weir Shipping Limited, James Fisher & Sons plc and Bibby Line Ltd.

  • Houlder’s role in the AWSR consortium included the management of the construction of the six ships and the provision of ongoing design and engineering support for AWSR for the duration of the contract. Houlder Offshore Engineering Ltd is an independent engineering consultancy and provides a broad range of services to clients in the offshore, marine and defence markets. The company is able to draw on an experienced team of project managers, naval architects, marine engineers and associated disciplines from its offices in Aberdeen, Newcastle and London. Through its central role in creating the AWSR consortium, winning the bid for the Strategic Sealift Service and negotiating the contract, Houlder has become well versed in the Private Finance Initiative, and its use in the defence sector. Houlder co-ordinated all works by the consortium members and was the interface with the client for Foreland Shipping Ltd which was awarded preferred bidder status in October 2000 and signed the contract with the MoD in June 2002.
  • Andrew Weir Shipping will provide ship management services for the duration of the contract. Andrew Weir and Company was founded in 1885. Today, Andrew Weir Shipping Limited is the largest privately owned shipping company in the UK and its commercial activities include stevedoring, forwarding, container engineering and the four shipping divisions: Bank Line, Ellerman, MacAndrews and United Baltic Corporation, along with Andrew Weir Agencies. These shipping lines operate a comprehensive network of sea routes serving Europe, the Baltic and CIS, East Africa, the Mediterranean, the Near and Middle East, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and India and Pakistan. AWS operates RoRo, container and multipurpose vessels and also provides transport services by rail, road and air through CAC Air Cargo.
  • James Fisher is a world-leading shipowner and operator with a high quality diverse fleet including tankers, heavy load RoRo, cable laying, nuclear fuel carriage and dry cargo vessels. Beyond ship ownership, the company has an enviable track record in project management and design, also providing support in both shipping and logistics to the Ministry of Defence.
  • Bibby Line’s role in the AWSR consortium is the provision of all crew management services including recruitment and training. Bibby Line Group is a business to business services group involved in ship owning and operation, shallow water accommodation, oil field services, contract logistics and debt factoring. The company was founded by Liverpool entrepreneur John Bibby in 1807 and has its head office in Duke Street, Liverpool. Bibby Line Limited specialises in the marine activities undertaken by the company. These include the ownership and operation of LPG and chemical ships, accommodation barges and jack-up rigs, as well as management activities. Management activities include Bibby International Services (IOM) Limited which is based in Douglas, Isle of Man and focuses on worldwide recruitment and deployment of seafarers and other ship manning services, with links in the Philippines, Russia, Korea, India, Cayman Islands and Europe.

AWSR Shipping Ltd is responsible for the provision of the crews, operation and maintenance of the ships - which are not warships - throughout the life of the contract. They built two ships at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, which secured 400-600 jobs in Northern Ireland for at least three years, and four ships at the Flensburger yard in Germany. Constructing the vessels at two shipyards enabled earlier availability than construction in one yard can provide, and the full service was expected to be available from early 2004.

The increasing drive in the public sector for longer term partnership arrangements with suppliers is changing the nature of procurement in many areas. The focus is shifting to the provision of a service rather than the supply of equipment, buildings or infrastructure. The Strategic Sealift Service contract addressed many new issues in the provision of an integrated shipping service in support of military operations with six new ships manned by British crews of Sponsored Reserves. The service was to enter service in 2004, but actually was active in 2003, which, in spite of the delays which occurred in the signing of the overall PFI contract, was some 18 months ahead of the originally planned schedule: one of the most successful programmes in MOD’s history, no doubts!

Vehicles that can be carried on the ships include Challenger 2 tanks, AS90 self-propelled howitzers, Warrior infantry combat vehicles and many other types of armoured and unarmoured military vehicles. The six vessels are all named after UK lighthouses, and wear the green and white livery of AWSR and fly the red ensign. The first of them, the Hurst Point, was launched exactly to time at Flensburg in April 2002, and was delivered for service in August. Also in August 2002, a second ship, the Eddystone, was launched at Flensburg, and the Longstone and Beachy Head followed. Meanwhile, the Hartland Point was floated in Belfast, for delivery in the autumn of 2002, and was followed by the second Harland & Wolff ship, the Anvil Point. 

The Hartland Point ship with some containers on board. The crane is very evident, and a truck can be seen emerging from the ramp leading to the Main Deck

The contract is valid to 2024, and its total value might reach, by then, the total figure of 950 million pounds. As a part of this project only of 4 out of the 6 ships are used for the strategic joint rapid reaction force (JRRF) on a daily basis. The last two are chartered out on the commercial market to generate commercial revenue, but are available to the MOD on very short notice.

Vehicles and containers on the Upper Deck.

The residual capacity of these four MoD ships is offered as a part of the Sealift Capability Package through the Sealift Co-ordination Centre. Since these ships are specially designed for military equipment, which means no obstacles with regard to the hull, they can be fully loaded. This has been proven to be a very successful arrangement, both to the UK Ministry of Defense, The Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the SCC.

Keel laid
Hurst Point
Flensburger Schiffbau
Gesellschaft mbH & Co KG,
21 Jan 2002
19 Apr 2002
12 Aug 2002
Beachy Head
Flensburger Schiffbau
Gesellschaft mbH & Co KG,
11 Nov 2002
07 Feb 2003
24 Apr 2003
Flensburger Schiffbau
Gesellschaft mbH & Co KG,
22 Apr 2002
16 Aug 2002
07 Nov 2002
Flensburger Schiffbau
Gesellschaft mbH & Co KG,
19 Aug 2002
08 Nov 2002
23 Jan 2003
Anvil Point
Harland and Wolff,
31 Mar 2003
Hartland Point
Harland and Wolff,
08 Oct 2001
10 Dec 2002


Ship type
Vehicle/container carrier
Gross tonnage
Net tonnage
Deadweight tonnage
193.00 meters / 627 ft
182.39 meters /
Width overall
26.00 meters
7.40 meters (scantling) 6.60 meters (design)
16.70 meters
Container capacity
668 TEU
Reefer capacity
30 TEU
Unloading gear
1 x 40 tons crane

Speed & F.O. consumption
Service Speed 18,0 Knots (22 % sea margin; 79 % MCR at design)  
Max Speed 22 knots
Max. Cruising Range abt. 12.000 sea miles
Consumption 42,42 t/day

Main Engine
Two ( 2 ) 4-Stroke Medium Speed Diesel Engines
7M43 M.C.R. 2 x 6.300 KW x 500 r.p.m.
Fuel Oil 380 cst at 50° C

Auxiliary Engines
Auxiliary Diesel Engines 2pcs 1.500 KW
Shaft Generators 2pcs 2.000 KVA
Generators (Diesel driven) 2 sets 1.800 KVA
Em. Generator (Diesel driven) 1 set 450 KVA

Steam Heating Plant
Oil Fired Boiler 1 pc. 2.000 kg/h
Exhaust Gas Boiler 2 pcs 1.000 kg/h each

Gear boxes, propeller
Two ( 2 ) gear boxes and two ( 2 ) controllable pitch propellers
5,0 m diameter high skew design , 4 bladed, 125 rpm

Steering equipment
2 Steering gears of ram type, max rudder angle 45°
1 Bow Thruster, 1.400 KW, controllable pitch propeller

Heeling and stabilization equipment
2 heeling pumps, capacity 2 x 1.250 qm/h
1 pair of flume roll stabilisation tanks

Road trailers, General Ro-Ro cargo, Mafi trailers, TEK/FEU Containers, Tanks and military vehicles

Lane Meters
Total 2.606 Meters of which:

Tank Top 485 lane meters with an uniform load capacity of 5.5 tons per square meter

Main Deck 975 lane meters with an uniform load capacity of 5.0 tons per square meter

Upper Deck   1.146 late meters with a uniform load capacity of 2.0 tons per square meter  

The decks are all connected with ample ramps, allowing to drive vehicles in and out. The Stern and Starboard Ramps give access to the Main Deck.
The tank top deck can take 36 road trailers (12.6 + 0.4 meters each), the main deck 70 and the upper deck 83 for a total of 189. 

All decks can take MAFI Trailer of 98 tons weight. The MAFI trailers or roller trailers aredesigned for use in stevedoring and transporting of 1x40ft or 2x20ft ISO cargo containers or loose cargo or big non knocked-down goods on RO-RO vessels or within terminal. 

Capacity: up 100 tons equally distributed not self-supporting load or container load at 20' /40 positions. The Mafi trailers come from 20 to 62 feet long. 

Tare Weight (Tolerance 2% ): Approx. 19 850 lbs (9 000kg)
The MAFI Trailers redistribute deck pressure over a much larger and uniform area, allowing the carriage of heavy loads even on not particularly strengthened decks.

Cargo Access Equipment

Access ramp in the stern   1 pc. 17,00 m x 13,7 m + 2,4 m flap
Access Ramp Side SB     1 pc. 5,70 m x 12,5 m incl. flap
Internal fixed ramp  1 pc. main deck to upper deck
Internal fixed ramp  1 pc. main deck to lower deck with watertight cover
Starboard Cargo Crane for 37/40 tons loads.


The starboard side ramp, once supported on the pier, gives access to 75 tons loads. The Stern ramp rates up to 85 tons and has been trialed with 92.


Cargo hold ventilation

20 air changes per hour in harbour during loading/discharge
10 air changes per hour at sea

Reefer plugs
60 pcs ( 10 KW / 32 A )




Total of 39 berths, typical crew 18 to 22. Can be worked with as few as 12 men.  

Helicopter facilities
VERTREP AREA; no hangar; no flight deck. Helicopters could be carried as cargo load.

The publication "The Royal Navy Handboook - The definitive MoD Guide" states that a typical vehicle load reaches the 220 vehicles of all types.

Military lift vehicles: Up 8,000 tonnes of vehicles on three decks. Typical mix of about 220 vehicles including Challenger 2 tanks, tracked combat vehicles including Warrior, FV432, Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle, Sabre, Spartan, AS90 self-propelled howitzer and a range of supporting vehicles.

According to Navy Matters, this would include 25 Challenger II tanks, 24 Warrior IFVs, a number of AS90 howitzers, and loads of smaller vehicles and trailers.

The side view shows the Starboard Ro-Ro access ramp, the bow thruster and the large crane, tested for 40 tons loads. Both the side ramp and stern ramp of the Point class can take Challenger II tanks.

The Interim Ro-Ro

The new ships replaced RFA Sea Centurion and RFA Sea Crusader.

A96 Sea Crusader was chartered by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) while under construction at Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Sakaide in Japan. RFA Sea Crusader was launched in 1996 as Celestine, and entered service upon completion in October 1996. She was operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary on charter from Cobelfret Ferries, and served as a transport in the Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF) and provide the Navy with the much needed sea lift capability that it has lacked for many years. Her charter expired in October 1998 but was extended until April 1999 to cover for the delayed arrival of her replacement and ultimately worked for the UK until August 2003. She had over 2,300 lane meters available for tanks, armoured transports and other vehicles and has been used for freighting and transport duties between her home port of Marchwood and with British Troops at Split, Thessalonika and elsewhere in the Balkans, especially during Operation Allied Force. Sea Crusader, similarly, was leased from Ocean Arrow in 1998 and returned to the owners in 2002 after providing sterling service in her short career.

161 metres 523 feet
25 metres
6.5 metres
18,031 ton / 23986gt
18 knots
17-18 RFA personnel
2,300 lane metres capacity

[Feb 2003]
Sea Crusader
August 2003
Leased in October 1996 and returned to owners in 2003 as Celestine
Sea Centurion
leased from Ocean Arrow and returned to her owners in 2002

Source of Point Class data:
Point Class Ro-Ro brochure:

They are both very much worth looking into, if you are interested as me in this kind of topics! 


  1. Great to have these, especially with the loss of one Bay-Class ship. Are they meant to be hospital ships in wartime too? I don't see any armament.

    1. They are strategic transports for big quantities of stores and/or vehicles. In theory, you could put some kind of containerized hospital on deck, but they are not intended for that kind of use. As for weaponry, i think they are indeed bare of armament.

    2. Yeah. The RFA lacks hospital ships.

    3. But hospital ships can't be armed even for self defence.

    4. The RFA has Argus. The ship has a 100 bed Role 3 casualty treatment facility.

  2. I sailed on board one of these ships, the Eddystone, several years ago, perhaps around 2003 or 2004. We sailed from Faslane naval base near Glasgow to Quebec in Eastern Canada. The ship was used to deliver vehicles and equipment to Canada for a military exercise and I was one of four soldiers who formed the military presence aboard the ship required to transport such cargo with the merchant navy. I was still only about 18 at the time but I have fond memories. It took 3 weeks to cross the Atlantic. The photos of these boats, particularly the one of the deck with the Land Rovers on it bring back lots of memories.

    1. What was the accommodation like on board the boat?


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