Today we take you to a construction site that is both monumental and unique. We are off to Itaguaí, 70km south-west of Rio de Janeiro to report progress on the most comprehensive naval technology transfer programme to date. It is here that Brazil will launch its next-generation submarines from a brand spanking new submarine shipyard and naval base that will be truly impressive.
The work site and the future ECB shipyard and naval base at Itaguaí (© : Naval Group)
The story begins with the signing of a strategic cooperation agreement between France and Brazil in 2008, followed, in 2010, by a series of contracts worth almost €7 billion, between Naval Group (known until June this year as DCNS) and its Brazilian partner Odebrecht.
The Prosub programme calls for the construction, under a technology transfer programme, of four Scorpene-based diesel-electric submarines, dubbed type S-BR, and French assistance with the development of the non-nuclear portions of Brazil’s first nuclear-powered submarine (SN-BR). Naval Group is also helping with the design and delivery of equipment for the new shipyard and the naval base where maintenance will be performed.
A Scorpene submarine belonging to the Royal Malaysian Navy (© : Mer et Marine - Jean-Louis Venne)
Sovereign submarine capability
“We seek to expand our submarine force because we need modern, high-performance weapons to protect our vast maritime domain. Our coastline is 8,500km in length and our EEZ covers 4.5 million square kilometres. The sea holds 90% of our hydrocarbon resources and is the gateway for 95% of our external trade. The protection of our maritime domain is crucial both in itself and because its resources are coveted by many. The world is, moreover, unstable and no one knows what the coming 50 or 100 years might bring. Through the Prosub programme and the acquisition of the technologies needed to design and build conventional submarines while at the same time developing a home-grown nuclear propulsion capability, Brazil has, for the first time, adopted a national defence and sovereignty policy,” says Fleet Admiral Gilberto Max Roffé Hirschfeld, General Coordinator of the Submarine Development Programme.
Fleet Admiral Gilberto Max Roffé Hirschfeld (© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)
Sepetiba Bay, from clean slate to submarine complex
Itaguaí Construções Navais (59% Odebrecht, 41% NG) is a joint company set up by prime contractor Odebrecht and Naval Group to build Brazil’s next-generation submarines. Work on the Sepetiba Bay shipyard and naval base and the associated infrastructure began in 2010.
The complex incorporates the one and only major existing facility in the vicinity, namely the state-owned Nuclep heavy engineering plant that produced the pressure hulls for the Navy’s German-designed Type 209 submarines built under a technology transfer programme and commissioned between 1994 and 2005.
With the exception of the Nuclep plant, the rest of the complex had to be designed and built from scratch, beginning with colossal earthworks. Construction work has involved around 600 Brazilian companies and mobilised up to 2000 people on site at a time. Taking into account indirect jobs, the number of people involved is estimated at 20,000.
On either side of a mountain
The complex, also known as the EBN naval base and shipyard, comprises a number of facilities on either side of a mountain on Sepetiba Bay. The first new facility was the UFEM engineering plant commissioned in 2013 and located alongside the Nuclep plant that produces pressure hull sections. In addition to building so-called non-strength structures, the vast UFEM plant pre-outfits hull sections and installs a range of equipment.
The UFEM plant (© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)
Hull sections for an S-BR boat in the UFEM plant (© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)
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