Richard Scott/IHS Jane's Navy International
7 September 2015
UK-based JFD - known previously as James Fisher Defence - took over the running of the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) on 1 July, having earlier in 2015 won a three-way competition for the NSRS second in-service support (2ISS) period.
The GBP12.1 million (USD18.3 million), five-year 2ISS contract - which includes options to extend through to 2023 - was let by the UK Ministry of Defence on behalf of the French, Norwegian, and UK governments. JFD was selected to manage the NSRS service ahead of Rolls-Royce (the original prime contractor for the design and build of the NSRS capability, and previous in-service support incumbent) and Phoenix International (which operates and maintains the US Navy's Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System).
Jointly owned by France, Norway, and the United Kingdom, and based at Faslane, Scotland, the NSRS is a globally deployable submarine rescue system operated under a government-owned/contractor-operated arrangement. The full system, specifically packaged for deployment by air, comprises several components: a Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV), capable of lifting up to 12 survivors from a distressed submarine (DISSUB) as deep as 610 m and inclined at an angle of up to 60°; a portable launch-and-recovery system capable of launching and recovering the SRV in seas up to 5 m high; a Transfer Under Pressure System, consisting of two large recompression chambers and supporting equipment; an intervention system, based on an intervention remotely operated vehicle (IROV), designed to assess and prepare the DISSUB for rescue, and maintain survivable conditions therein; and support equipment including generators, spares, workshops, communications, tracking, and navigation.
Ensuring a smooth and essentially seamless transition to 2ISS was a central tenet of the NSRS Invitation to Tender (ITT). "We have been able to transfer all of the operational [NSRS] personnel over as part of the TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations] process," Greg Cotten, JFD's Submarine Escape and Rescue Head of Capability and Chief Engineer, told IHS Jane's . "The main change is in service management."
JFD already runs submarine escape and rescue services in Australia and Singapore (the latter in a joint venture with ST Marine). According to Cotten, the company's NSRS service provision is looking to capitalise on its established pedigree. "In this 2ISS period, we will seek to leverage our global operations capability," he said. "There are opportunities for shared training, cross-fertilisation of expertise, and commonality of approach. Our belief is that we can make the [NSRS] operation more robust, leveraging our global SQEP [suitably qualified and experienced personnel] footprint to ensure we can rapidly augment the 'core' team, and get additional SQEP to the scene very quickly.
"During the transition, we have also received and reviewed the original [NSRS] documentation. That was based on a design, build, and operate model. Now that we are in an in-service support and operations phase, we see that there is scope to streamline and optimise documentation over the next 6-12 months, so the customer will start to see a little bit of difference," Cotten said.
BMT Isis, having already completed an independent safety review of NSRS, is providing safety and environmental support to JFD. Under this arrangement, BMT Isis will undertake a safety governance role in JFD's global operations, with the NSRS being operated in accordance with JFD's operational safety management system. Safety and environmental support will include the use of BMT's hazard and risk management system software, which will enable the 'live' management of safety and environmental risks across multiple sites around the world.
Under the 2ISS contract, JFD has also assumed the role of design authority for the NSRS assets. "I now have responsibility for all in-service systems," Cotten said, "so we have established relationships with the original equipment manufacturers [OEMs] in order to deliver that responsibility."
JFD is undertaking its first mobilisation of NSRS assets in September. "We will first deploy and exercise the IROV in waters off Bergen [Norway] for Exercise 'Silverlink'," Cotten said. "This will be followed back-to-back by Exercise 'Northern Sun' [also taking place off Bergen], where we will deploy the full rescue kit. This will be a chance for the … partner nations to observe JFD undertake a complete call-out and mobilisation."
A further exercise is planned for November. "This will test our ability to put our kit onto a mothership we've never integrated onto before," said Cotten. "It will stress our pre-engineering and mobilisation capabilities to demonstrate we can accomplish integration in short order."
JFD previously operated the national UK Submarine Rescue Service (UKSRS), including the LR5 SRV, until its retirement in November 2008. The company subsequently assumed ownership of the UKSRS assets - comprising the LR5, a Scorpio 45 IROV, associated launch-and-recovery systems, a deck reception chamber, three one-man decompression chambers, and workshop, electrical, mechanical, and support containers - and re-branded the capability as the James Fisher Submarine Rescue Service (JFSRS).
Since December 2008, JFD has provided the JFSRS - based in Henderson, Western Australia - as an on-call submarine escape and rescue service for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). In November 2014, the company was awarded a contract by the Commonwealth of Australia for the provision of the RAN's submarine escape and rescue capability for the next five years, plus options through to 2024.
"We've grown the scope of our service in Australia," Cotten explained. "We now also have responsibility for the provision of pressurised submarine escape training, which will be delivered by our instructors at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. Additional enhancements to the JFSRS will include the design and manufacture of an integrated hyperbaric capability.
"We've also been asked to look at various additional improvements," said Cotten, "for example, a deployable sidescan sonar for locating DISSUBs, a new Transfer Under Pressure interface to reduce the time taken to transfer pressurised rescuees to decompression, and the provision of a second launch-and-recovery system."
In Singapore, JFD is a partner in First Response Marine Pty Ltd with ST Marine. First Response Marine is a commercially owned and operated service under contract to provide a complete submarine rescue capability to the Republic of Singapore Navy. This service, extending through to 2029, is principally delivered by the mothershipSwift Rescue , built by ST Marine, and the JFD-built SRV DSAR-6.
"The system goes to sea a couple of times a month, and we regularly demonstrate that this is a true and tested capability," Cotten said. "We are already engaging with the customer to present options as to what might follow at the end of the current contract."
Outside submarine rescue service provision, JFD continues to design, manufacture, and refit SRVs. "We are the OEM for the ROKS DSRV II vehicle in service with the Republic of Korea Navy, and routinely despatch engineers and technicians to assist with maintenance and upkeep activities," Cotten said. "We also undertook the refit and upgrade of Sweden's URF vehicle .... The upgraded URF Mk II completed sea acceptance trials in June this year."
In 2014, JFD was given L1 (preferred bidder) status for the supply of two new SRVs, associated rescue systems, and operator training for the Indian Navy, with entry into service planned for 2017-18. "Contract negotiations have been going on for some time," Cotten confirmed, "but we are not yet in a position to make a definitive announcement."