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Profits Up At Vosper Thornycroft

Despite its failure to win the U.K's Royal Navy Type 23 frigate contract which, after extended debate, was awarded to GEC Marine (an umbrella company that includes warship builders VSEL and Yarrow Shipbuilders), Vosper Thornycroft (VT) has reported pre-tax profits of $41.1 million for 1996 to March 31.

VT profits are 10 percent higher than in 1995, which was a highly profitable period. Success, according to Chairman Lord Wakeham, is due to the broadening of the company's business base, independent of the yard winning warship contracts which accounted for 25 percent of the turnover. The company reportedly has $120 million in cash and a healthy orderbook worth more than $675 million.

Lord Wakeham's annual statement, however, was quick to reinforce the volatility of the marketplace. "Conditions in the warship building industry worldwide remain difficult to predict and continue to be characterized by construction overcapacity and increasing competition," said the VT executive. However, he added, "Demand in our key export markets is stable and we have some excellent prospects." VT continues to enjoy the benefits of a strategy designed to corn- pensate for the cyclical nature of large ship orders and has reduced the break-even point in its shipbuilding activities while developing a range of other business. Particular success has been achieved in the fields of naval training, career guidance and engineering services by participation in three major facilities management initiatives arising out of the British government's "Competing for Quality" and outsourcing programs. In the warship building sector, the yard continues to trade well with Middle Eastern countries, with recent deliveries including the first of two corvettes for the Royal Navy of Oman in early April, and a first-of-class fast strike craft for the Qatar Emiri Navy in May.

The corvette, described as a valuable addition to VT's portfolio, is of common base design to ensure flexibility and lower costs. The hull form, with slight variations in length, has already been offered to other customers and can be used as a platform for a range of ships including light frigates and offshore patrol vessels. VT Ship Sales Director Laurence Gandar described the 272.2-ft. (83-m) long steel SNV Qahir Al Amwaj (Conqueror of the Waves) as powerful and versatile, capable of extended offshore operations and providing both a defensive and offensive capability with state-ofthe- art electronics and weapons systems.

With speeds in excess of 25 knots in rough conditions, the vessel is particularly suited to the severe conditions of the Arabian Sea and the approaches to the Arabian Gulf through the Gulf of Oman.

Accommodation has been provided for up to 79 officers although the ship is designed for operation with a complement of 60. Principal duties involve Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) patrol duties and operational support activities, but fishery protection, anti-smuggling, search and rescue, disaster relief and pollution control tasks are also envisaged.

Power is provided by four Crossley Pielstick medium speed 16-cylinder V diesels driving two cp propellers via reduction gearboxes. Each machinery set operates independently and one engine per shaft is sufficient to obtain speeds in excess of 20 knots. VT has provided the machinery control and surveillance systems as well as steering gear and stabilizers. To improve radar cross-section signature of the ship, the hull form and superstructure have been carefully designed to minimize radar reflection and measures have also been incorporated to improve the infrared signature. The second vessel, SNV Al Mua'zzar, will be delivered later this year and is scheduled to arrive in Oman early in 1997.

The Qatar Emiri Navy has also, meanwhile, accepted a new VT first-of-class vessel — the fast strike craft QENS Barzan, built at VT's yard in Portchester. Design of the 183.6-ft. (56-m) craft has been evolved from similarly sized vessels delivered to Oman and Kenya, using the same basic hull form but with a totally redesigned superstructure and internal arrangement.

Operational and accommodation spaces are arranged to reduce motion and noise, better access has been provided along the upper deck and a second deck level has been incorporated. Power is supplied by four MTU diesel engines, each driving through a reverse/reduction gearbox into a fp propeller.

The vessel also benefits from VT's own advanced Machinery Control and Surveillance System (MCAS), a microprocessor-based ship platform management package which enables one-person control of main propulsion, electrical and auxiliary systems from the bridge. High quality VDU color graphics enable the operator to examine the status of any ship system displayed on a mimic diagram.

Several versions of the design have been proposed including an anti-submarine version with variable depth sonar and torpedo armament, and an EEZ patrol version for coast guard or customs customers. The EEZ versions would be capable of carrying large fast seaboats, or have the ability to operate a small helicopter for search and rescue duties.

Three additional vessels in the Qatar series are on order. The second vessel, QENS Huwar, will be delivered later this year. The third ship, QENS Al Udeid, was launched in March, and the final vessel will be launched in August.

 
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