[At the shipyard] Episode #1: a FREMM docks…

05 June 2024 Defense Naval Surface ships Fleet services News

It’s nine in the morning. The multimission frigate (FREMM) glides into the dock at the naval base, guided by French Navy tug boats, to prepare for her scheduled technical stop. These manoeuvres are closely supervised by Naval Group’s Dockmaster, in charge of orchestrating this tricky and minutely prepared operation.

Jean-Yves, the dockmaster, keeps a close eye on the frigate as it gradually enters the dock. “The ship will be positioned along the axis of the dock, just above the keel blocks, calling for precision down to the nearest centimetre!”, he explains.

Attentive to the ship’s every move, he suddenly radios instructions. “Correct by two degrees to portside!” The bow shifts slightly as the teams, prompt to act on Jean-Yves’ instructions, adjust the tension in the winches.

The tension felt by the manoeuvring teams is palpable as the frigate clears the threshold of the dock. Because of the inertia of the ship, they will need to act quickly if anything happens. “The preparatory work we’ve undertaken beforehand allows us to keep our adrenaline in check!” states Jean-Yves, his eyes riveted to the slowly advancing bow.

Marion, the Shipyard Logistics Department Manager standing by his side adds, “Given that the entire work schedule depends on the successful conclusion of this dry docking operation, we start preparing for this manoeuvre well in advance. With the support of my teams, I ensure that all concerned are well-prepared for the operation and that all required resources are available and everything is perfectly coordinated for the scheduled date”.


The date and time for dry docking are determined based on tide levels. The dock team, the naval base tug boats, the frigate crew and the French Fleet Support Service (SSF) teams have carefully gone over and fine-tuned this operation in the weeks leading up to this manoeuvre. “For example, one of the things we did beforehand was positioning the keel blocks in the bottom of the dock. Their configuration varies each time depending on the type of ship and dimensions of the dock”, continues Jean-Yves. “Yesterday, we filled the dock with seawater and removed the floating dam”.


A slow and synchronised process

The FREMM meantime continues its progression and the dock team surveyors check her position with optical equipment. “I am constantly in touch with the French Navy pilot on the tug boat and with the frigate’s Manoeuvre Officer who corrects the ship’s list to the extent possible”, continues Jean-Yves. “The success of the operation depends on our capacity to communicate with each other clearly, remaining scrupulously in sync each step of the way. My years of experience have also been helpful in anticipating the frigate’s reactions.”

“Once the tug boats have left and the dock is closed, Naval Group divers will check the alignment of the ship twice: firstly, soon after beginning to pump water out of the dock and next once the FREMM starts nearing the keel blocks”, adds Marion. “Water will then continue to be pumped out until the ship rests completely on the keel blocks”. Once the frigate is in place and the dock has been drained of seawater, the maintenance work can begin...   



To be continued… [At the shipyard] Episode #2: Support the production