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Join us for a guided tour of the Fouladou, the first offshore patrol vessel by Ocea; also the largest aluminium OPV built in Europe and the Senegalese Navy’s new flagship.

OPV Fouladou was delivered to Dakar, its homeport, in November. This state-of-the-art vessel has a length overall of 58 metres, a beam of 9.4m and was built at Ocea’s shipyard at Sables d’Olonne on France’s Atlantic coast.


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Commander Diawara on the bridge (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)

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Wake watching (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)

Stable and quiet

During trials, OPV Fouladou recorded a top speed of 26 knots aided by a slight current, 2 knots more than the contract specification. The ship is remarkably quiet and stable, even without using the Naiad stabilisers. Travelling at high speed, there is little vibration on the bridge and remarkably little noise, even with the outside door wide open. “The new platform’s stability and low noise levels are the result of know-how we’ve developed over a period of 30 years or more. We have plenty of experience in building aluminium hulls and proven design skills enabling us to deliver economical high-performance vessels that meet our clients’ needs at competitive construction costs. We invest a great deal in R&D and our in-house design team has the latest hardware and software, including digital simulation tools.”

“To optimise the design of this new-generation OPV, we tested no fewer than 27 hullforms. Soundproofing and noise control are also Ocea strengths. We focus on noise control from the beginning of the design phase, drawing on lessons learnt from every ship we’ve built. We introduced a number of innovations when designing the survey vessels we built for Indonesia and all proved highly successful,” said Fabrice Weinbach, Ocea’s head of Maritime Security & Safety.


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Fabrice Weinbach, Ocea’s head of Maritime Security & Safety, and Paul-Éric Juin (© Mer et Marine)

Better than expected

The stability, speed and fuel consumption data recorded during the first few weeks of operational service exceeded expectations. The design team and everyone else at the Ocea shipyard was pleased to learn that in-service performance was better than the client’s specifications. Proud of its track record in patrol vessels ranging from 20 to 35 metres and others approaching 60 metres — most importantly the two OSV 190 survey vessels delivered to Indonesia in 2015 — Ocea is pleased indeed that its first OPV, with its decidedly different hullform compared to the OSVs, is proving such a success.


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The Fouladou under construction at Ocea’s Sables d’Olonne shipyard (© Ocea)​​​​​​​

The many advantages of aluminium

Because aluminium hulls are lighter than steel ones, they require less power to achieve the same speed while burning less fuel. “For a standard mission profile of the type identified by the Senegalese Navy, and a 20-year lifetime, we calculated that an OPV like the Fouladou will burn 5 million litres less fuel and emit 37%, or 14,000 tonnes, less carbon dioxide than a steel-hulled vessel of the same size designed for the same missions. Aluminium’s fuel savings are thus a real benefit.”

“For operators who specify aluminium hulls, the choice also means vessels that are more respectful of the environment at a time when the international community is increasingly aware of climate change and the challenge of meeting the COP21 targets. In this respect, the benefits of aluminium go far beyond reduced fuel consumption. Aluminium-hulled ships also consume less oil and far less paint as the corrosion-free metal does not have to be constantly repainted. While it is true that aluminium production is energy intensive, it is also true that its recycling is more efficient. Aluminium can be recycled up to ten times, compared to three for steel. Also, each recycling requires just 5% of the energy needed for initial production.”


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Forward deck (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)​​​​​​​

Dependable, provided it’s used wisely

To date, navies have generally refrained from moving to aluminium hulls for large platforms, their chief concerns being long-term structural strength and the metal’s response to fire. Ocea’s engineers are confident that these fears are overstated: “We’ve been working with aluminium for over 30 years and built a range of vessels for demanding professional applications. Our design expertise and our rigorous sample-and-test policy — which goes far beyond the requirements of any classification society — give us the utmost confidence that we have mastered the challenges of metal fatigue and that our products are as rugged as any made of steel. To date, not a single Ocea vessel has encountered the least problem involving metal fatigue or premature ageing. The facts show that we master the technology. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of all shipyards, which explains why some have encountered problems while others have not.”

The fact that Ocea hulls carry a ten-year guarantee further demonstrates the company’s confidence in its know-how. On the question of aluminium’s fire response, Fabrice Weinbach says, “each material has its own characteristics. When exposed to intense heat, composites melt and steel buckles. In the event of a shipboard fire, the most important thing — irrespective of the final result — is how quickly the fire is detected and how quickly the fire can be put out. Our vessels meet the highest standards in these areas. Each space is fitted with both heat and smoke detectors as well as with the requisite firefighting equipment. The engine room, for instance, is equipped with a Novec inert gas fire suppression system.


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Engine room (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)​​​​​​​



The main engine room and two other technical compartments are located below the main deck. The first houses two MTU 16V4000 M73 diesel engines rated at 2,560kW, a reduction gearbox and two shaft lines driving Rolla fixed-pitch propellers. The second houses a pair of alternator sets powered by Caterpillar diesels, each rated to supply all of the vessel’s electrical needs. The alternator sets are backed up by a battery bank and an on-deck emergency alternator. The steering gear compartment, houses, as the name suggests, the steering gear, including a main system, a backup system and a manual backup system. Steering proper is provided by two rudders. The Fouladou is also equipped with a bow thruster, by Hydro Armor, offering excellent manoeuvrability and the ability to dock unassisted. The entire power/propulsion system can be controlled from the bridge or through a portable computer serving as a local control unit.


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The bridge (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)​​​​​​​

Panoramic bridge

The panoramic bridge is deliberately positioned as high as possible to give the crew a commanding view. The bridge and the surrounding outdoor walkway offer true 360° visibility, including unobstructed views of the forward and aft decks. The forward part of the spacious bridge features the navigation and control systems, engine displays, two radar displays, the ECDIS and the communications equipment. The aft part is occupied by a Nexeya command & control (C2) system that includes the tactical situation display. A second monitor is for the ship’s CCTV video surveillance network with cameras covering both indoor and outside areas. This system is used to counter attempted intrusions and to display imagery in the event of an accident, failure, combat damage or a fire.


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Bridge walkway (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)​​​​​​​


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Vigy Observer optronic surveillance system (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)​​​​​​​


In addition to navigation and surveillance radars, the Fouladou has a Vigy Observer optronic surveillance system mounted on the mast. This gyro-stabilised multi-sensor system by Safran uses the same IR sensors as the group’s Jim LR long-range binoculars and the same mechanical assemblies as its optronic turrets for armoured vehicles. The Vigy Observer system is compact, easy to integrate, and effective at high platform speeds. While the system enables the operator to observe and identify targets by day or night, the built-in laser range-finder ensures accurate geolocation.

Ops centre and weapons

In addition to the C2 system on the bridge, the Fouladou also has a below-decks operations centre complete with tactical situation, radar and Vigy Observer displays, direct access to the communications systems and a main gun controller. The main gun on the forward deck is a remotely operated 30-mm weapon supplied by MSI Defense Systems. Other armaments include a pair of manually operated 12.7-mm machine guns aft of the bridge. The machine gun station also controls a powerful water cannon for firefighting or for use as a non-lethal law enforcement weapon.



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Ops centre planning area ​​​​​​​(© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)


The mission planning section of the ops centre features a large tactical situation display, meeting the needs of an embarked command team. This plus interoperable systems and communications mean that the vessel is well equipped to participate in multi-platform operations as well as joint and allied forces. Thanks to a false ceiling with multiple openings to facilitate the installation of new cabling, the ops centre can readily accommodate new uses and equipment.

Like other shipboard spaces, including the cabins, the ops centre is equipped with Ethernet connectors giving access to the ship’s network. The Fouladou’s communications systems include a Sailor 250 satellite system, shipwide wi-fi and connections to local 4G networks when docked.


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Fast response craft, or FRC ​​​​​​​(© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)

Intervention at sea

OPV Fouladou is designed primarily for offshore patrol duties over vast areas. To this end, the design offers a range of 5,500nm at 12 knots and three weeks’ endurance without resupply. The vessel is also truly multipurpose and ready to undertake a wide variety of missions. The two fast response craft on the aft deck enable the crew to inspect ships at sea, police fisheries, combat illegal trafficking and terrorism, and conduct special operations. Based on the FRCs used in the offshore oil and gas industry, these 7.5-m boats have an aluminium hull and are produced by Palfinger. This particular type, the FRSQ 700, has a top speed in excess of 35 knots and can carry up to 15 people. The FRCs carry radios linking them to the ship’s C2 system and allowing them to exchange imagery and data. The OPV can thus send an FRC target tracks complete with description and AIS data, or simple target trajectory data.



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FRC ​​​​​​​(© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)

Quick launching

The davits can launch and recover an FRC in just one minute in complete safety. These operations are performed with the crew and passengers on the boat. When an FRC comes alongside, a telescopic boom is extended from the ship’s hull to secure the boat’s bow while the jaws of the davit take hold, thereby ensuring smooth recovery. Ocea teams tested recovery up to sea state 5 with the ship moving at around 6 knots, and found it to be perfectly safe and sure.


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(© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)

Modular aft deck

The mission-reconfigurable aft deck can be seen as one of the design’s prime features. Aside from the FRCs and their davits, it offers space for two 10-foot containers and one 20-foot container. On leaving France for Senegal, OPV Fouladou carried a pollution control container loaded with spill cleanup gear, one of the ship’s many design missions.




Diver support

OPV Fouladou is also equipped to support divers and combat swimmers. A dedicated compartment includes a wet area, a dry area, a changing room, a shower and storage space and is accessible both from inside the ship and directly from the aft deck. This arrangement facilitates diver and swimmer operations, including direct access to the FRCs when evacuating personnel or recovering survivors.




Accommodation for 35 passengers

In addition to cabins for the crew of 24, the design includes cabins and bunks for 35 passengers, whether guests, members of an embarked command team, personnel on specialised missions (commandos, divers, swimmers, etc.), or individuals rescued at sea. Other facilities include a sick bay and a cell, directly accessible from the aft deck, for suspects picked up at sea.



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Officers’ mess (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)

Top marks for comfort

Whether exploring a passageway or inspecting the living quarters, anyone visiting OPV Fouladou will be struck by the attention to detail and high quality finish. For a naval vessel, OPV Fouladou is comfortable and pleasant, even if it isn’t quite a megayacht. The configuration of the different spaces, the materials used, the fittings and furnishings, and the lighting all contribute to the overall impression. It is also true that improved living conditions were a priority from the outset. “This is really important for all navies. Today’s recruits demand a certain level of comfort. In order to be effective when on duty, crew members must enjoy being aboard. While comfort begins with the active and passive systems ensuring platform stability, it also encompasses the working environments and the user friendliness of each space.

The bridge is a good example. It is bright and quiet with floor-level lighting like that used on cruise ships and even includes a sofa. The cabins and messes are also pleasant thanks to careful design, quality furnishings and attention to detail — like cupboards and storage areas with smooth opening doors. Comfort is largely about getting the details right. Here, Ocea draws on its experience in designing and building other types of vessels. Attention to detail improves the crew’s day-to-day living conditions and generally doesn’t cost any more,” added Fabrice Weinbach.

The commander and second-in-command have individual cabins while the other officers are in two-bunk cabins and the crew in cabins with a maximum of four bunks. The commander also has a desk and sofa in a separate area. Every sailor has his or her own locker and most cabins have separate sanitary areas.


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On the bridge (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)


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(© : Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)

Mixed crew

In line with Senegalese Navy policy, OPV Fouladou is designed to accommodate a mixed crew. The initial complement counts five women including one of the four officers.

The design has separate messes for officers, petty officers and ratings. All three have portholes providing natural light, a large TV screen and comfortable bench seating. The galley, which is relatively large for a ship of this size, supplies all three messes. The adjoining food storage area has a hatch opening onto the aft deck thereby allowing the crew to load provisions using the deck crane directly overhead. This innovation does away with passing boxes from hand to hand. Just a detail, but, like so many others, it helps to make the sailor’s daily life a little easier. The same applies to maintenance. Again considerable effort went into simplifying and reducing the frequency of each task. Naturally, streamlined maintenance also has a direct impact on operating costs.

Adapted by Steve Dyson


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Under way (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)​​​​​​​

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View aft with low sunlight (© Mer et Marine - Vincent Groizeleau)​​​​​​​


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