Tanker RFA Tiderace left the best berth in Liverpool and returned to sea for trials after a five-month revamp on Merseyside.
The 39,000-tonne vessel departed the Cruise Liner jetty on Liverpool’s world-famous waterfront to prepare for renewed front-line duties supporting Royal Navy operations around the globe.
The ship spent five months in the hands of Birkenhead’s Cammell Laird yard – a revamp which ended with the ship being berthed across the Mersey for several weeks at the city’s prime spot: the cruise terminal in the shadow of the Liver Building, freeing up space over the water at Cammell Laird.
The cruise jetty typically hosts passenger liners, or warships paying high-profile visits to the port (such as carrier HMS Prince of Wales which drew massive crowds on her debut in her affiliated city at the end of February).
But with no liners using the berth built specially for them under lockdown, merchant vessels have been using it instead for resupply and maintenance work.
Tiderace – one of four Tide-class vessels built to provide Prince of Wales, her older sister HMS Queen Elizabeth and their carrier battle groups with fuel to power both the ships and F-35 strike fighters and helicopters – has been in the hands of Cammell Laird since the beginning of the year.
She’s one of numerous RFA vessels being revamped by the Birkenhead yard as part of a ten-year/£619m contract to maintain, overhaul and refit the auxiliary flotilla.
Tiderace went into dry dock back in January for work beneath the waterline, such as adding a fresh lick of paint to the 200-metre-long-hull and the unenviable task of inspecting the sludge tanks.
Since then further work has been carried out in Tranmere Basin on the left bank of the Mersey… and then Canada Dock in Bootle on the right bank.
Improvements and changes include all four funnel exhausts, a significantly-enhanced firefighting system, and enhancements and tweaks based on lessons learned by the ship’s company since the tanker was handed over from its builder.
The final phase of Tiderace’s revamp revolved around a fresh coat of (special) paint for the tanker’s huge flight deck (large enough to accommodate a Chinook) under a protective awning to spare shipwrights exposure to the elements.
“Liverpool has, of course, been a strange place of late given the Covid-19 restrictions in place,” said Captain Chris Clarke, the tanker’s Commanding Officer. “The cruise berth is normally at the heart of the famous clubs, bars, restaurants and museums of Liverpool. But while it has been strangely quiet, Tiderace has at least given the locals an impressive ship to view.
“I am delighted to have taken command of Tiderace and given the privilege of starting the complex steps of turning a ship in refit to a fully-operational vessel capable of supporting our mighty carriers in times of both peace and conflict.