A Mooring system like no other

HMS Caroline Mooring system like no other belfast 2017

HMS Caroline, the only First World War Battle of Jutland ship still afloat is to reopen on July 1 following successful completion of winter repairs, and the installation of an ingenious engineering solution to make it safe for visitors, says The National Museum of the Royal Navy

One of the most innovative engineering projects ever seen in Ireland is approaching completion at Alexandra Dock in Belfast, home to HMS Caroline, now a five-star heritage tourism attraction.

The ship, which was fully restored and opened to the public on May 31 2016, through £15,086,100 backing from Heritage Lottery Fund and £4,518,000 support from Tourism NI is due to reopen following hull repairs conducted this winter by Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries. A highly complex permanent mooring system to make the ship safe for the public and also to protect the ship from lateral movements as it floats on the rising and falling tides is now being completed. Captain John Rees, OBE, Chief of Staff at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, in charge of the restoration and project work, says the ship will re-open on July 1 in time for the summer season.

“We are very much looking forward to the reopening of HMS Caroline, as it will now boast one of the most advanced mooring systems ever seen on the island of Ireland and possibly in the world,” says Captain Rees.

“Because of the historic fabric of Alexandra Dock which is a scheduled ancient monument and the complications of attaching an equally important and iconic vessel which weighs more than 4,000 tonnes to it, we have had to progress the project very carefully and sensitively,” he says.

The ship has been secured in the dock using two articulated steel A frames.  These allow the ship to rise and fall with the tides while preventing excessive lateral movement which could restrict public access to the ship.

The attachment of the A frames to the ship required careful consideration to ensure that the loads generated by wind and wave action were transferred through strong points in the vessel thereby avoiding damage to the historically significant ship.
On the dock-side the historic nature of the dock structure, combined with the poor ground conditions surrounding the dock, required the installation of a piled foundation structure.  This foundation system extends 30m below the surface and utilises ground anchors 35m long to provide lateral restraint to the A frames on the dockside.

Thousands of visitors are expected to board the ship once again when it reopens. The 122 metre-long light cruiser built in 1914 was restored to its full glory with new decking, guns and a total refurbishment from bridge to engine rooms. Visitors are being offered a unique experience to journey back 100 years to a dangerous life at sea during the First World War. The light cruiser saw action in the infamous Battle of Jutland on May 31 1916 in which more than 8,000 lives were lost and was the focus of international commemorations of the battle on May 31 last  year.

The living quarters of the captain, officers and ratings as well as the signal school, engine room, sick bay and galley any many other spaces will all once again be available to experience. These hugely atmospheric areas of the ship are largely intact from the day the ship was completed in 1914. In addition, state-of the art multi-screen video experiences reproducing the sounds and drama of the biggest naval battle ever fought, interactive installations, education suites and spaces for gala dinners and events will be open to the public.
Captain Rees says HMS Caroline stands shoulder to shoulder with the world’s most historically significant ships including Lord Nelson’s Victory and Queen Victoria’s Warrior, both of which are part of the National Museum’s fleet and  on display in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
“HMS Caroline is a living legend. This is a world class heritage asset and the only ship remaining from the Grand and High Seas Fleet of some 250 vessels,” says Captain Rees. “We must not underestimate the value of this ship and the resonance of its history and position in Northern Ireland, so it is a matter of pride for us as well as a contribution to local communities that the ship is brought back to life as a museum and  visitor attraction. Naval historians and the general public around the world will be fascinated by this wonderful ship and delighted that they can come on board and see it for themselves.”

Moored in Belfast since 1924 the ship has been restored and fitted out with exhibition areas and exciting interactive suites to provide the visitor with a stark sense of what it was like to be in the middle of a naval battle against the mightiest floating army in the world, the German Imperial Fleet.
The ship opens to the public at 10am July 1 and will be open seven days a week until 5pm. Check www.hmscaroline.co.uk for more information and ticket prices.

HMS Caroline June 2017 Restoration Work Belfast maritime

HMS Caroline 1916