HMS Ocean (L12) of the Royal Navy is an Amphibious assault ship (or Landing Platform Helicopter), the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force.
She was constructed in the mid-1990s by Kvaerner Govan Ltd on the Clyde and fitted out at Barrow-in-Furness prior to first of class trials and subsequent acceptance in service. She was commissioned in September 1998 at her home port Devonport, Plymouth, Devon.
Two shipbuilders competed for the contract - Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL) and Swan Hunter. On 11 May 1993 the government announced VSEL had won the contract. The build was to commercial standards, reducing costs significantly and leading to a construction spend of £154 million, comparable to that of a Type 23 frigate. VSEL, a warship manufacturer, sub-contracted the build phase to the commercial Kværner yard in Govan, Glasgow.
The fact that VSEL's bid was £71 million lower than Swan Hunter's was the source of political controversy and lead to a National Audit Office investigation to determine whether the competition was fair. The report, published on 29 July 1993, stated that although VSEL did subsidise its bid the MoD was right to award the contract to VSEL because the subsidy was much smaller than the difference between the two bids; VSEL's bid was £139.5 million compared to Swan Hunter's £210.6 million. The Times also suggested that the subsidy was as little as £10 million. In anticipation of the report the Financial Times described the different philosophies adopted by the two bidders; While Swan Hunter viewed the ships as entirely military, "VSEL thought the design was basically a merchant ship with military hardware bolted on." VSEL's decision to sub-contract the build phase took advantage of lower overheads at a civilian yard as well as efficiency drives by its parent, Kværner. The cut-price build to commercial standards means that HMS Ocean has a projected operational life of just 20 years , significantly less than that of other warships.
During 2002 Ocean supported Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone, joining HMS Illustrious aiding the suppression of rebel activity with her own EMF and providing support facilities for the Spearhead battalion ashore.
In 2007, Ocean began her first long refit period. This was carried out by Devonport Management Limited at their Devonport Royal Dockyard facility and lasted around 12 months, during which period, Ark Royal took over the LPH role. HMS Ocean sailed from Plymouth on Wednesday 24 September 2008 to start sea trials, following this major period of maintenance and upgrading work.
Ocean was designed to provide the amphibious assault capabilities last offered by HMS Albion and Bulwark whilst in the Commando role. She can deploy an Embarked Military Force (EMF) of a Royal Marines Commando Group from 3 Commando Brigade supported by aviation and landing craft assets. The ships company includes 9 Assault Squadron from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines.
Ocean is also capable of limited Anti-Submarine Warfare activities, supporting afloat training and acting as a base facility for other embarked forces including Counter-terrorism units.