HMS Bristol, a firm fixture in Portsmouth Harbour for nearly 20 years, is about to get a new home.

The Royal Navy training ship won’t be going far though, just 140 metres to the east of its current permanent berth at the tip of Whale Island. The move may be a small one, but it will make a big difference to operations at Portsmouth International Port and the Royal Naval Base. Relocating the former warship will remove a pinch point in the harbor that restricts the manoeuvring of larger ships. The relocation will create an increased turning circle of 300 metres at phase one, and remove the pinch point between the bow of HMS Bristol and Fountain Lake Jetty increasing this distance by more than 90 metres.

HMS Bristol was the only Type 82 destroyer ever built for the Royal Navy, designed to defend a class of aircraft carriers that never saw the light of day. During 20 years of service she was part of the task force in the Falklands. The ship is best known latterly as a training vessel with up to 17,000 visitors getting onboard each year. A favourite with sea cadets and naval recruits, a visit is often a first opportunity to experience life at sea without leaving the harbour.

As commercial vessels visiting Portsmouth International Port continue to grow in size, it’s become clear that a larger turning circle is required. Work to lengthen Berth 2 has recently been completed, now allowing ships up to 240 metres in length to safely berth at Portsmouth International Port. An intensive program of dredging means larger ships can also visit at a wider range of tides. 

Portsmouth CIty Council, which owns and operates the Port, has given the go ahead for funds to construct Bristol’s new berth. Working in partnership with the Royal Navy plans are being finalised for the new mooring berth and associated works. Construction has to fit in with the Royal Navy’s busy training schedule so work will start towards the end of November and will need to be completed by early February 2013, when visitors will once again be back aboard HMS Bristol.

Martin Putman, Port Manager of Portsmouth International Port, said: “We have been working closely with the Royal Navy to create a lot more space in the harbour whilst minimizing impact on the important training and support role provided by HMS BRISTOL. As commercial vessels continue to grow in size we are helping to develop our strategy for the future of the Port. This will maintain jobs and keeps investment coming into the city and local area.”

Commander Paul Jones, Commanding Officer HMS EXCELLENT, added: “Whale Island has strong working links with its neighbours and I am pleased that a happy compromise has been reached that benefits both the Royal Navy and the commercial activity of our home city”.