William Coates gets on board for historic ship’s restoration

M&E engineering services company, William Coates, has been involved in many diverse projects over its long history, but perhaps none more so than a recent contract to complete the M&E services on board the historic HMS Caroline, at Alexandra Dock, Queen’s Road, Belfast.

The ship is the last remaining British WW1 light cruiser still afloat (and the sole survivor of the Battle of Jutland).The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment have worked as partners to restore and interpret HMS Caroline through a £11million refit to launch it for a new life as a floating museum.

As a result, the public will now be able to enjoy a unique experience, visiting the restored engine rooms and crew spaces, as well as newly introduced interactive stations, classrooms, event spaces and a café.

William Coates was proud to play its part in this historic restoration and refurbishment, employed by main contractor, Blu Marine, to look after the mechanical and electrical services installation.

“It was a big project to undertake,” said Gareth Holden, Electrical Project Manager at William Coates. “We hadn’t carried out this type of installation before – there aren’t many of them about. We hadn’t worked with Blu Marine before either, but they’re a very professional company and were a pleasure to work with. At William Coates, we like to continually develop our skills and add to our already extensive portfolio. Working on HMS Caroline has certainly ticked both boxes and allows us to tackle similar jobs, should they ever come up in the future, with even more confidence.”

William Coates completed a comprehensive M&E services installation on the iconic HMS Caroline. This included mains distribution coming from the dockside onto the ship and terminating in a new mains switchboard.

General power was supplied throughout the ship – including power supply to the interactive displays – as well as general and emergency lighting.

The old drill hall space was converted into what is now the main audio-visual space. “Intelligent lighting was installed there to compliment the video presentation, but also to enable the lighting to be adapted when the space is used for other types of functions,” explained Gareth. “The main engine room is also a great space with lighting and sound interaction.”

M&E services were further installed for the catering facilities in the mess area – an industrial kitchen fit-out to allow outside caterers to be able to use appliances such as portable ovens.

“It was an interesting project to work on, with some unique challenges,” continued Gareth. “First of all, the ship had be stripped right back because of all its modern add-ons over the years. We were directed not to take any paint off, as it dates back over 100 years and is of historic interest, so we had to work around that as best we could without causing any damage.”

The biggest challenge for the team from William Coates was being able to facilitate the vision of the experts from the National Museum of the Royal Navy – keeping the authenticity of the restoration while carrying out a modern services installation.

“It meant that we had to hide a lot of things, such as the modern ventilation and air-conditioning pipe and duct work, which would otherwise have looked out of place in a historical context,” said Gareth. “It took a bit of trial and error, making modifications as we went along, and that meant that the job took longer than normal, which was an additional pressure as there was a tight schedule on this project – the ship had to be ready in time for the 100 years commemoration of the Battle of Jutland, in May.

“We started work in November, and because of the nature of the job it was very labour intensive, so we brought in additional people to ensure that we made the deadline. It certainly wasn’t a run-of-the-mill M&E project but, overall, the job went very well indeed.”

HMS Caroline has since been towed to a dry dock in the H&W Shipyard in Belfast in order to undergo hull conservation work before opening once again to the public. The public attraction has received a five-star rating from Tourism Northern Ireland and will be returned to Alexandra Dock in Belfast Harbour in February 2017.

For more information on William Coates Ltd, telephone (NI) 028 9034 2560 or (RoI) 048 9034 2560, e-mail  info@williamcoates.com or visit www.williamcoates.com