https://insideDIO.blog.gov.uk/2016/08/22/safe-approach-to-portsmouth-navigation-lights-for-aircraft-carriers/

Safe Approach to Portsmouth: Navigation Lights for Aircraft Carriers

Hi, I’m Philip Wise, DIO’s Principal Project Manager for the work taking place at Portsmouth to ready the naval base to be home port of the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers. The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is planned to arrive early next year and will be followed by sister ship HMS Prince of Wales in due course.

Philip Wise, DIO's Principal Project Manager for preparations for the QEC carriers at HMNB Portsmouth (Crown Copyright/MOD2015)
Philip Wise, DIO's Principal Project Manager for preparations for the QEC carriers at HMNB Portsmouth (Crown Copyright/MOD2015)

The aircraft carriers and the F-35B fighters they will carry will be a vital part of Britain’s national security and will help the Royal Navy to play their part in protecting the country and project global British influence.

We’ve been keeping you updated on progress on the project through this blog, including the substation and jetty works and it’s time for another update.

Navigation Lights

We’re installing navigation lights on the approach to Portsmouth harbour and particularly to guide the vessel through the narrow harbour entrance.

Locations of the navigation lights. [Crown Copyright/MOD2016]
Locations of the navigation lights. [Crown Copyright/MOD2016]
The navigation lights are mounted on top of 14 large steel tower structures rising up to 30 metres from the sea bed. Once operational the lights will enable the pilots to safely navigate in and out of Portsmouth harbour by providing a visual check on the vessel’s course. Earlier in the year our contractor, VolkerStevin, drove the pile foundations into the sea bed and are now putting the upper sections in place.

The lights are powered by both solar panels and batteries so they will work whatever the weather. To minimise distraction to other vessels and local people, they will only be lit when the carriers are approaching or leaving their berths.

One of the navigation aids in situ. [VolkerWessels UK, 2016]
One of the navigation aids in situ. [VolkerWessels UK, 2016]
They each weigh around 22 tonnes and we have been using a 350 tonne crane barge to lift them into position. Getting them in place has required close liaison between ourselves, VolkerStevin, the Queen’s Harbour Master, ferry operators and the like. Portsmouth is a busy harbour for both civilian and military vessels so it was important to have these discussions to make sure the work could take place safely and with the minimum disruption to other harbour users.

One of the navigation aid structures on its side on shore. [Crown Copyright/MOD2016]
One of the navigation aid structures on its side on shore. [Crown Copyright/MOD2016]
The navigation light towers are being installed as part of a £34 million package of infrastructure work being delivered on behalf of DIO by VolkerStevin. The approach channel and berth pocket in which the aircraft carriers will be moored is being dredged by Boskalis Westminster Ltd to ensure they are deep and wide enough for ships the size of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, which are the largest ships ever operated by the Royal Navy.

23 comments

  1. David Ellis

    Sorry but I have to say that the new navigation marks are incredibly ugly. Utilitarian metalwork like that would look perfectly at home in the middle of an oil refinery, but just off a tourist beach I think you should have made an effort to come up with something more elegant.

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  2. Greg Young

    Will there be any lights on them to help yachts and small vessels that approach the harbour outside the channel to identify their location at night?

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  3. Mike buggy

    Why are they placed in this pattern. ?..are some of them transits? Why are there 2 rows of 3 for example?

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    • helenpickering

      Mike, sorry for the delay - your comment was missed unfortunately.

      The three towers (triple transit lights) align with the vessel's port, centre and starboard lines so it can be aligned with the entry channel.

      DIO Communications Team

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  4. Miles Stuart

    Where can I find out how these new nav lights work? I'm a retired Master Mariner and would love to know more.

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  5. Harry

    Why are there 3 lights in each group? How will th lights be used ?

    Link to this comment Reply
    • helenpickering

      Harry, sorry for the delay - your comment was missed unfortunately.

      The three towers (triple transit lights) align with the vessel's port, centre and starboard lines so it can be aligned with the entry channel.

      DIO Communications Team

      Link to this comment Reply
  6. David Cummings

    Why are they in rows of three, ? do they need to line the three up If its for indicting safe route, singles could do it. Please inform, thanks

    Link to this comment Reply
    • helenpickering

      David, sorry for the delay - your comment was missed unfortunately.

      The three towers (triple transit lights) align with the vessel's port, centre and starboard lines so it can be aligned with the entry channel.

      DIO Communications Team

      Link to this comment Reply
  7. Sean Gage

    I have gazed at these structures from across the water at Puckpool on the Island and wondered what they were. At last I've found the answer,
    Many Thanks
    Sean Gage

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  8. Joseph Wyatt

    Why do they need to be in a row of 3 ?

    Surly they'd just be lining the outer ones up for the approach or leave

    Link to this comment Reply
    • helenpickering

      Joseph, sorry for the delay - your comment was missed unfortunately.

      The three towers (triple transit lights) align with the vessel's port, centre and starboard lines so it can be aligned with the entry channel.

      DIO Communications Team

      Link to this comment Reply
    • helenpickering

      To provide navigational certainty the vessel’s navigator visually aligns one set of three up with the other (i.e. they act as a pair) and because each of the three lights is a different colour the navigator can be certain he’s lining up the correct lights.

      The most critical element of the navigation into Portsmouth is passing through the narrow harbour entrance. We have pairs of triple transits in both the outer and inner harbour to guide the carrier either way through the entrance.

      Link to this comment Reply
  9. kh

    Could you explain why some of the marks occur in threes?

    Link to this comment Reply
    • helenpickering

      Sorry for the delay - your comment was missed unfortunately.

      The three towers (triple transit lights) align with the vessel's port, centre and starboard lines so it can be aligned with the entry channel.

      DIO Communications Team

      Link to this comment Reply
  10. A Skynner

    How about a diagram?

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  11. Chris Sprules

    Hi Helen
    Thanks i understand the 12 lights - do the other 2 navigation marks have a role as well?
    "the navigation lights are mounted on top of 14 large steel tower structures rising up to 30 metres from the sea bed"

    Link to this comment Reply
    • helenpickering

      Hi Chris, The 12 lights are divided into four sets of three (hence triple transits). To provide navigational certainty the vessel’s navigator visually aligns one set of three up with the other (i.e. they act as a pair) and because each of the three lights is a different colour the navigator can be certain he’s lining up the correct lights.

      The most critical element of the navigation into Portsmouth is passing through the narrow harbour entrance. We have pairs of triple transits in both the outer and inner harbour to guide the carrier either way through the entrance.

      The other two lights on piles provide visual control for directional changes either before or after passing through the harbour entrance, dependent on direction of travel. These are single lights rather than triple transits.

      Link to this comment Reply
  12. Terry

    So, are you saying that The three towers (triple transit lights) align with the vessel's port, centre and starboard lines so it can be aligned with the entry channel? 🙂

    Link to this comment Reply
    • helenpickering

      Hi Terry, The 12 lights are divided into four sets of three (hence triple transits). To provide navigational certainty the vessel’s navigator visually aligns one set of three up with the other (i.e. they act as a pair) and because each of the three lights is a different colour the navigator can be certain he’s lining up the correct lights.

      The most critical element of the navigation into Portsmouth is passing through the narrow harbour entrance. We have pairs of triple transits in both the outer and inner harbour to guide the carrier either way through the entrance.

      The other two lights on piles provide visual control for directional changes either before or after passing through the harbour entrance, dependent on direction of travel. These are single lights rather than triple transits.

      Link to this comment Reply
  13. jeremy

    I am sure no potential enemy would provide such facilities. If the ship cannot be safely navigated by her crew anywhere and in any situation and circumstances then somebody has erred - - -

    Link to this comment Reply
  14. dave

    waiting to see how these carriers turn in the harbour (without huge lights on towers) - maybe employ a few brittany ferry pilots..

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