WORKERS, naval personnel, special guests and hundreds of flag-waving youngsters all helped to give a special welcome to the Princess Royal when she came to Barrow for the launch of Albion in 2001. She sent the amphibious assault ship down the slipway into Walney Channel from the BAE Systems yard on March 9. The Princess Royal was accompanied at the Barrow ceremony by Commodore Timothy Laurence and was welcomed to the yard by Joseph Harris, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria. Albion was the first of a class of two large and powerful ships - properly called landing platform docks - which would replace the Royal Navy vessels HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid.The other was the Barrow-built Bulwark, which was launched on November 15 in 2001. Albion’s link with the Princess Royal was continued when she was at the commissioning ceremony at Devonport Naval Base, Plymouth, on June 19 in 2003. She also rededicated the ship in July 2017 after a £90m refit. Work on the 18,500-tonne ship started in November 1997 and the keel-laying ceremony was carried out on May 23 in 1998 by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach. Albion is 176m in length, with a top speed of 18 knots and a range of 7,000 nautical miles. There isn’t much that Albion can’t carry into battle - including Royal Marines and their equipment, six Challenger-2  tanks, or 16 two-ton trucks. Its flight deck has two landing spots for helicopters with room to stow a third on the deck. In 2004 Albion took part in the multinational Exercise Joint Winter,off Norway and then in the Aurora exercises, off the eastern seaboard of the United States. It was then sent to the Ivory Coast to support Operation Phillis, when British citizens were evacuated as a civil war broke out. In April 2010, during the air travel disruption caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland, Albion was sent to Santander, Spain, as part of Operation Cunningham to bring back soldiers from the third battalion The Rifles battlegroup, Royal Air Force personnel and stranded British citizens.