Energising the West Country

Based in the English port town of Falmouth, known for its deep natural harbour, A&P Falmouth is a ship repair and conversion yard encompassing much of the town’s dock facilities. It is part of the wider A&P Group that also has sites on the rivers Tyne and Tees. Falmouth has been providing ship repair and conversion services there for more than 150 years. Today Falmouth is a modern yard with three dry docks – the largest of which is 40 metres by 260 metres – and 750 metres of alongside berths, providing capacity for vessels up to 100,000 tonnes deadweight. With annual revenues of £50 million and 400 employees it is one of the largest companies in Cornwall. More recently the yard has begun moving into the marine renewable energy sector by using its fabrication and engineering workshops to aid companies in manufacturing their technology.

A&P Falmouth has worked closely with many of the world’s leading maritime companies. One such company is Grimaldi Lines, with which A&P Falmouth has had a long lasting partnership – 50 repair contracts during the past decade. Commercial director David Daniel talks about the yard’s current Grimaldi project: “We are fabricating four 42 tonne rudders which will be fitted one each to four vessels during scheduled dry dockings over the summer period.”

Grimaldi has discovered in A&P Falmouth a commitment and skill that has kept the international shipping specialist returning to the yard for ten years. This partnership exemplifies why A&P Falmouth has been such a long-term success; yards rely on retaining old customers as well as gaining new clients, so quality and service level become their foremost attributes which A&P Falmouth can consistently provide.

This same approach is applied to the four Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships for which A&P has a through life support contract. The most recent drydocking was the RFA Cardigan Bay. “We carry out survey and certification work,” says David, “as well as upgrades of the ship’s systems, we will be carrying out drydocking and survey work on RFA Lyme Bay later this year. One upgrade will be the installation of a ballast water treatment system, which is becoming a high profile focus for ship owners.”

One of A&P Falmouth’s biggest strengths is its ability to handle multiple concurrent projects. Sales and marketing director Jez Littlejohns explains further: “We execute a number of complex projects at one time so there can be five or six ships here, each with its own project being individually managed and with differing time scales. One job will just be starting, ramping up and needing extra resources, whilst another will be slowing down and preparing to depart. We also carry out fabrication work for numerous onshore and marine projects. The logistics of managing projects is complex and this is the biggest challenge we face in our day-to-day business. Nonetheless we have been able to do just that, with the skills and people to carry out the work, and the management structure to efficiently organise and facilitate the entire supply chain.”

The shore-based projects mentioned by Jez are the company’s recent steps into the marine energy sector. Wave and tidal energy technologies are quickly gaining ground amongst developers and as a company with a reputation for engineering prowess, A&P Falmouth plays an important role not only in fabricating a product but in providing design advice and testing with the new FabTest facilities located in Falmouth Bay. A&P Falmouth recently used this state-of-the-art site in carrying out the steel fabrication of a wave energy convertor, which is currently being trialled. This is an accessible near shore site designated for testing early stage devices before full scale trials are undertaken.

A&P Falmouth could not achieve these successes alone, however, and has come to trust a number of local and national suppliers to ensure it provides a seamless, efficient and cost effective service to its customers. One such company, Armada Hydraulics, is a firm specialising in hydraulic systems design, installation, overhauls, servicing and commissioning for land, marine and energy based applications. In this capacity, it has provided A&P Falmouth with a great deal of support throughout a long relationship. Other notable suppliers include European Active Projects Ltd, which provides resources support; PowerFal, which provides overhaul and reconditioning services for main engines and turbochargers; Safe-Line Marine, a supplier and installer of hatches and water tight doors, Shield Environmental Services and many others.

Looking forward, A&P Falmouth has many exciting prospects ahead of it. The first is, of course, its growing presence of both the yard and Falmouth itself in the marine renewable energy industry. “The sector is still quite embryonic,” David says, “but because we have excellent steel fabrication and engineering facilities and are able to help firms build prototypes, we can offer a good spectrum of services that covers most needs. Plus there is an added bonus of being on the waterfront close to a major test site.”

Apart from this, the Yard is also looking forward to a major development of its facilities. Working with its partners, which include Falmouth Harbour Commissioners, A&P Falmouth hopes to obtain consent to build a new load out quay to benefit from the dredge of its access channel. This would provide an 8.2m deep channel with a 9m deep berthing pocket at all states of tide on a 400m long berth. In addition there would be new facilities to support its growing renewable and cruise business. “Meanwhile we will continue to repair and convert ships, hopefully for another 150 years,” concludes David. “In terms of fabrication there are also plenty of opportunities alongside our ship repair business to pursue.”

Ship repair and conversion
Growing marine energy business
Future port expansion