MORE than a year late on her delivery date from a South Korean shipyard, RFA Tidespring, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s latest vessel, is expected to slip into Falmouth Bay tomorrow where she will undergo further trials in the area before berthing on the Duchy Wharf at 1000 hours on Sunday.

A&P Falmouth will welcome the arrival of Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s latest ship. For managing director Gerald Pitts and the Cluster team it will be the culmination of many months of planning behind the scenes.

Tidespring will bring 17 weeks intensive work to the docks where sensitive equipment such as self defence weapons, ballistic protection and communications systems will be installed on all four Tide Class tankers over the next two years.

From now on the yard will have a steady stream of work on RFA ships. It comes at a time when A&P is gearing up to bid for part of a ten-year, £900

million pound Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract to refit and repair ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The MoD is keeping very tight lipped about Tidespring’s late delivery giving away little information on the subject.

In February Defence procurement minister Harriett Baldwin blamed “delays in finalising elements of electrical design and the installation of Multi-Cable Transit insulation in accordance with new legislative regulations” which have now been resolved.”

The four ships, Tidespring, Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce, built in South Korea at a combined cost of £450 million, will enter service with the Royal Navy to boost its capabilities by delivering fuel, water, spare parts and other supplies.

These ships are the next- generation tankers forming part of the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) project and are intended to replace the RFA’s ageing fleet of single-hulled tankers.

Tidespring will complete her customisation programme here then embark on four months of specialist trials in the Western Approaches and off Scotland during which time the RAS (Replenishment At Sea) equipment; helicopter trials and other military roles will be tried and tested before she enters service with the fleet.

The last tanker to bear the Tidespring name served the Royal Fleet Auxiliary for 30 years from 1962 until 1992 and saw action in Aden Withdrawal (1967-68) and Monrovia (1990).

In 1982, however, she found herself supporting the task force sent to liberate the Falklands.

In addition to providing fuel for Royal Navy vessels, the tanker was home to a company of Royal Marine commandos during the recapture of South Georgia.

Those actions saw Tidespring being awarded its first battle honour.

The board carrying it, plus the ship’s badge, was kept when the tanker was paid off in the early 1990s and after making the 6,000-mile journey from Britain to South Korea now has pride of place on the new ship.