Her Majesty's Naval Base, Portsmouth (HMNB Portsmouth) is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy (the others being HMNB Clyde and HMNB Devonport). Portsmouth Naval Base is part of the city of Portsmouth; it is located on the eastern shore of Portsmouth Harbour, north of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Until the early 1970s it was officially known as Portsmouth Royal Dockyard (or HM Dockyard, Portsmouth) the shipbuilding, repair and maintenance element of the base was privatized in the late-1990s/early-2000s.
The base is home to one of the oldest dry docks in the world (the oldest and second-oldest are in Greenock on the River Clyde), as well as being the headquarters for two-thirds of the Royal Navy's surface fleet. The base is also home to a number of commercial shore activities, including shipbuilding and ship repair (operated by BAE Systems Maritime); naval logistics, accommodation and messing; and personnel support functions (e.g. medical and dental; education; pastoral and welfare) provided by Defence Equipment and Support.
The base is the oldest in the Royal Navy and it has been an important part of the Senior Service's history and the defence of the British Isles for centuries. At one time it was the largest industrial site in the world.Around the year 2000, the designation HMS Nelson (which until then had been specific to Portsmouth's Naval Barracks in Queen Street) was extended to cover the entire base.
Portsmouth naval base is home to two-thirds of the Royal Navy's surface ships, and employs up to 17,200 people. In addition, Portsmouth is building part of, and will be the home port of the two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers ordered in 2008, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. However, due to budget cuts in 2013 shipbuilding in Portsmouth was closed in favour of BAE keeping open its yards in Glasgow. It has been speculated this was to help retain Scotland in the union and it was suggested by the BAE chairman that shipbuilding could return to the city if Scotland voted for independence.
The base plays host to a large part of the surface fleet of the Royal Navy including the Type 45 destroyers, the majority of the Type 23 frigates, the River class fishery protection vessels and a squadron of mine counter-measures vessels (minesweepers and minehunters). The new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will eventually be based in Portsmouth, requiring that dredging be carried out to accommodate their considerable draft. Most of the vessels based in Portsmouth form part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, under the Fleet First reorganisation which saw the three (Portsmouth, Devonport and Faslane) port flotillas replace the frigate and destroyer squadrons and other groupings.
In total some 17,300 people work in the base. Until 2012 the Second Sea Lord as Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command flew his flag from HMS Victory, which is the oldest commissioned warship in the world (although she was originally built at Chatham Dockyard). Since then, the post of Commander-in-Chief (and with it the use of Victory as flagship) has reverted to the First Sea Lord. (The Second Sea Lord is now at Henry Leach Building on Whale Island, which is also the headquarters of the Fleet Commander.)
The Naval Base is also home to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which allows members of the public to visit important maritime attractions such as Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.