VESSEL REVIEW | Patrick Blackett – Modified crewboat to be operated as Royal Navy testing vessel

Photo: Royal Navy

NavyX, the experimental branch of the UK Royal Navy, has taken delivery of Patrick Blackett, a new experimental vessel (XV), based on a fast crewboat design developed by Netherlands-based the Damen Shipyards Group.

Tender documents had specified that the vessel was already to be in existence, rather than built from scratch. Damen was able to offer the navy with a new vessel that was in stock, having been built at its Gorinchem facilities. The vessel was purchased, modified for navy use, and delivered, all within a year. The navy said it cost about US$8 million.

XV Patrick Blackett, named after a distinguished scientist and naval officer, was constructed at Damen’s Gorinchem shipyard in the Netherlands. It is a dedicated trials platform, which is intended to obviate the need to use the Royal Navy’s increasingly scarce front-line vessels for such tasks. The vessel has a core crew of five navy personnel, including its commanding officer, but it is not a commissioned warship and therefore flies the Blue Ensign of a government vessel on non-commercial service. This arrangement should allow greater economy, and flexibility in its operation.

The vessel has sleeping accommodations for up to 12 people and can carry 12 additional technical staff on a day- running basis.

The XV is not painted in warship grey but in matte black with a large letter “X” on its hull highlighted in gloss. A large QR code will be painted on each side of the superstructure to give smart phone users a link to the official NavyX website.

Photo: Royal Navy

The Damen bow design reduces water resistance, while the long, tapered hull helps the vessel pierce waves rather than ride over them, thereby reducing slamming and pitching motions. These features allow higher speeds, reduce hull impact, and provide fuel economy, as well as ensure a relatively smooth ride for passengers and crew.

A number of modifications were made to the standard crewboat design in order to meet the navy’s operational requirements. These include the installation of a briefing room, an office, and a workshop. Changes were also made to the ship’s standard communications, engine monitoring, and navigation outfits.

A notably innovative feature is the fitting of plug-in points for the navy’s new, transferable equipment for the control of assets, including autonomous and remotely controlled vehicles, namely, Persistently Operationally Deployed Systems (PODS).

Data from the ship’s digital control systems are fed into a central server. This would allow for the eventual conversion of Patrick Blackett to autonomous operation, if so desired.

The aft wooden working deck aft can carry a load of up to 100 tonnes and has securing points for two 20-foot containers, together with electrical power and cooling water supplies.

Patrick Blackett will be deployed by NavyX in support of a raft of technologically advanced projects, many of them involving the development of unmanned air, surface, and sub-surface vehicles. The ship will also trial new sensors and artificial intelligence decision-making software.

Photo: Royal Navy/Damen

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XV Patrick Blackett
Type of vessel:Crewboat/Test vessel
Owner:Royal Navy, UK
Designer:Damen Shipyards Group, Netherlands
Builder:Damen Shipyards Gorinchem, Netherlands
Hull construction material:Steel
Superstructure construction material:Aluminium
Length overall:41.2 metres
Beam:8.7 metres
Deadweight tonnage:100
Gross tonnage:270
Capacity:2 TEUs
Main engines:4 x Caterpillar C32
Propulsion:4 x fixed-pitch propellers
Generators:4 x 90 kW
Side thruster:120 kW
Maximum speed:20 knots
Range:3,300 nautical miles
Radars:2 x JRC X-band
Type of fuel:Diesel
Accommodation:Offices; briefing room; cabins

Trevor Hollingsbee

Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police. He is Baird Maritime's resident maritime security expert and columnist.