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The aircraft carrier alliance was formed in order to deliver two new large aircraft carriers to the Royal Navy in 2007.  Babcock Marine, Thales, the UK Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems came together to accept the £6bn contract award in 2008. 

The 65,000 tonne 284m long vessels would be jointly developed and constructed by this alliance.  The ship is divided into blocks to ease the manufacturing process, with construction of the blocks being shared between shipyards.  The blocks weighed around 4000 to 8000 tonnes each, and after construction were to be delivered to the assembly site in Rosyth.

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Penso were contracted to derive the lifting and block manipulation methods to ensure the blocks were moved safely to the construction site.  Penso were presented several awards for their work in achieving this goal, including the Essential Weight Rose, MODs Rising Star Award, Innovation Award for Carrier Upper Block Novel Transportation Method and The Union of the Two Towers Award for Best Practice.

Penso chose to use simulation methods to determine the correct transportation strategy for each of the giant blocks.  Finite Element models of the enormous structures were created in which the mass centres and overall centre of gravity were crucial components. To simulate the movement of these blocks their mass and inertia properties were critical to understand, as were their structural properties. Each block must be lifted from the ground, so the crane attachment points must be evaluated for strength and durability in movement. Once off the ground it is important to ensure that the blocks remained stable during the lifting process so a clear understanding of the lifting equipment was necessary  to ensure a stable lift.

Each block must then be manoeuvred from the shipyard onto a transport barge for delivery to Rosyth. The blocks are often turned to correctly load onto the transport vessel so these motions were evaluated for stability to ensure the blocks remained under the control of the lifting equipment and all unwanted momentums were cancelled out.

A specific challenge of this project was that each block featured a different shape and weight, and thus, possessed unique centre of gravity characteristics.  Each shipyard has its own constraints for loads and spaces, and each piece of lifting equipment had its own requirements which were all considered to ensure a safe and stable lift.

Penso has significant capability at performing complex calculations such as these with a large number of variables and complex interactions to consider.  Prior to this project Penso had not undertaken such lifting and turning calculations, but BAE Systems had engaged with Penso on previous projects of a complex nature and were confident Penso could adapt itself to the challenge.

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The result of this work was that each block was successfully moved to the construction site with zero incidents in complete stability at the first attempt.  This outcome prompted the bestowment of a plethora of Chairmans Awards on Penso in recognition of the innovation, precision and diligence shown in the project.

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