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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

RMAS Newton / SD Newton
by Bill Glover


Built in 1976 by Scott’s Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Greenock

Length 323.0 ft.  Breadth 52.5 ft.  Depth 15.4 ft.  Gross tonnage 4000

Built for the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service as a dual role cable layer/oceanographic research ship and taken into service on 18 June 1976. Fitted with two sets of electrically powered cable machines forward, supplied by Standard Telephones and Cables, and three bow sheaves. Fitted with two cable tanks with a capacity of 400 tons and a hold for cable buoys, grapnels, ropes etc.

Newton has diesel electric propulsion with three tandem generators for propulsion power and ship's AC power. To aid manoeuvrability at low speed, a nozzle rudder is fitted, as well as a retractable bow thruster, plus bilge keels and a passive stabilising tank.

In August 1996 the operation of the majority of RMAS vessels, except RMAS Newton, was handed over to Serco Marine Services Ltd. On 1 April 2008 Serco took full control of all RMAS vessels including RMAS Newton and all were then registered as commercial vessels with the prefix changing from RMAS to SD (SERCO Denholm).

In 2000 the vessel underwent a major refit which included the removal of the cable machinery; the bow sheaves were left in place. The main contract was awarded to Ocean Fleets Ltd., who were to arrange the supply and installation of all new equipment.  The principal contract went to Wright & Beyer Ltd., a division of Cammell Laird’s Holdings. Three new diesel engines Ruston RK 215 medium speed units each capable of producing 1360 kW at 1000 revs per minute were supplied by Ruston Diesels of Newton le Willows. Following the refit the ship was used as a training and support vessel for Special Forces.

SD Newton was replaced by SD Victoria in 2010, and was at the breaker's yard in Ghent, Belgium as of January 2013. Site visitor Ferdinand Michel reports that as of early May 2013 the ship was down to the waterline.

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Last revised: 7 May, 2013

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