Construction of the future HMS Prince of Wales, the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, began at Portsmouth with a formal steel-cutting ceremony on 16 February. The shipyard will build the 6,000-tonne forward section of the hull known as Lower Block 02 that houses machinery spaces, stores, switchboards and some accommodation. The south coast yard is also building the forward island that will house the ship’s bridge, and the Lower Block 05 stern sections of HMS Queen Elizabeth, both of which are nearing completion.
Meanwhile, work is also under way to prepare the naval base for home-porting the 65,000-tonne ships. Seabed borehole excavations along the proposed channel, berths and a turning circle within the harbour have started, ahead of major year-long dredging works due to take place in 2014. The operation to widen and deepen the channel and harbour will involve the excavation of around 3.5 million tonnes of seabed and the replacement of undersea cables.