Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m

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Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m

Postby MikeJames » 06 Jan 2016 08:08

Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m
THE AUSTRALIAN JANUARY 6, 2016 12:00AM

Cameron Stewart
Associate Editor
Melbourne

Image
Armidale-class patrol boat HMAS Larrakia.

The repair bill for the navy’s troubled patrol boats could blow out by up to $45 million as the damage to the overworked fleet becomes apparent from the ­asylum-seeker crisis of the Rudd-Gillard era.

The Australian understands that the start of a major refit for the 13 Armidale-class patrol boats has uncovered more damage than was expected, doubling the cost of repairing the first two boats and raising doubts over their durability.

The navy’s patrol boat fleet has suffered from a perfect storm of design faults, poor maintenance and the mission to intercept more than 50,000 asylum-seekers between 2008 and 2013, often in rough seas for which the boats were not designed. This has left the fleet in poor condition, with the government this year fast-tracking a replacement fleet of offshore patrol vessels, to be known as Corvettes, with construction to begin in 2018.

To keep the Armidale fleet afloat until the OPVs are ready in the early 2020s, the patrol boats are undergoing a progressive mid-life refit in Singapore rather than in Cairns or Darwin, where the navy has been disappointed in the quality and speed of repairs.

It is understood that the costs of refitting the first two patrol boats, HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Albany, has been more than $7m a boat, double the expected cost of $3.5m a boat. If that cost blowout is repeated across the 13-boat fleet, the refit budget will blow out by more than $45m. The navy lost one of its patrol boats, HMAS Bundaberg, to fire as it was undergoing a refit in Darwin last year.

To supplement the remaining Armidales while two boats are progressively in refit, the Australian Border Force has temporarily transferred two Cape-class offshore patrol vessels to the navy to enable it to meet its border security obligations.

The Cape Byron was handed to the navy on July 24 and the Cape Nelson on October 1. Shipbuilder Austal has won a $63m contract to build two Cape-class patrol boats for Defence to be delivered mid-next year and chartered to Defence for at least three years.

Defence has been unhappy with the quality of the maintenance program given to the Armidale fleet in the past and has agreed with in-service support contractor Serco to end the contract earlier than planned, next year.

“Over a number of years, the sustainment of Armidale-class patrol boats has not allowed the fleet to meet the required levels of availability for this important capability,” a Defence spokesman said. “Therefore it has been mutually agreed that the contract will end in 2017.”

Defence will tender for a new in-service support contractor next year.

The Armidale-class fleet was built in Western Australia between 2004 and 2007 under order to civilian rather than military specifications, meaning they were ill-suited to operate regularly in high seas. This meant the aluminium alloy-hulled vessels were poorly equipped for the mission of intercepting and sometimes ­rescuing hundreds of asylum-seeker boats in rough weather as they made passage from Indonesia or Sri Lanka to Christmas Island between 2008 and 2013.

In March last year, a re-emergence of structural cracks in the boats caused almost half the fleet to be confined to port. This caused the navy to lose patience with the fleet and it asked the government to fast-track the construction of steel-hulled, rather than aluminium alloy-hulled boats, to make them more resistant to rough seas and poor weather. Although there have been turn-backs of asylum-seeker boats since 2013, the lull in boats seeking to make the crossing has allowed the navy to develop deep maintenance and refit programs to keep the Armidale-class fleet afloat.

The mid-life refit program began in October and has uncovered the extent of corrosion and cracks caused by the wear during the years when the boats were at sea for long periods.

“The Armidale-class patrol boat fleet has commenced a mid-life refit which will include a hull-strengthening program along with a range of engineering changes designed to refresh some key ships’ systems and improve overall platform reliability,” a Defence spokesman said. “The program will also include a range of lower level engineering changes designed to improve overall long-term reliability of the platforms.”
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Re: Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m

Postby littoralcombat » 07 Jan 2016 11:53

Could of sworn there was a reply to this thread yesterday, just wondering why it was removed Mike?
Interesting that the work is being done in Singapore.
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Re: Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m

Postby MikeJames » 08 Jan 2016 13:30

Not sure about the missing reply mate.

As for the maintenance, Navy has previous form there. Success was converted to a double hull design up in Singapore because no yard here in Australia would do it to a fixed cost and to a hard time frame with penalties for late delivery. It's not the first time that's happened either, with a number of major fleet units having had a bum scrape and repaint done up there.

I think that Navy does it remind local yards that they don't have to use Australian yards and that they have faster, cheaper and more reliable options offshore.

Cheers

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Re: Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m

Postby RussF172 » 08 Jan 2016 15:00

Yes there was a reply there, but it was brought to my attention that I may have said something that was probably out of place. I didn't want to smear the good names of those that work at the yards and as was pointed out, yes it may have been reported in the news, but I didn't need to add to wowes. The Government and defence have to take some of the responsibility for how the boats turned out and if they aren't what they expected then that is to a good degree their fault and not the hard working men and women who work in the yards.
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Re: Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m

Postby Ahoythere » 10 Jan 2016 19:12

There is a lot more that happens behind the scenes in Australia that not many know about. The people that build, repair and maintain these vessels in the ship yards of Australia can only work as fast as it takes the materials needed to get the work done. That and the cost of labour does not help either :D
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Re: Navy patrol boat repairs blow out by $45m

Postby kerryjames » 28 Jan 2016 13:35

The refit on the Melbourne in 1968 was a joke, we were supposed to get a new flight deck and after all the strikes and time wasting peaple from the dock yard all we got was worse bits of flight deck was cut out and replaced with new plate. We were in the graving dock for 1 year. the fitters and turners shit in the bilges and not go ashore to the heads. The stokers had to clean up the mess until I made a non service broad cast on the engine room piping system. I got run in by the senior foreman fitter and turner to the senior engineer and when asked why I made the broadcast and what I had said. I told him what the stokers had to clean up and said what we were going to do to the next docky who releaved himself in the bilges.I got an offical caution and told not to do it again. The fore man understood what we were going to do to the next fitter and turner who sort he could get away with it and the painters and dockers were told as well. The dockyard workers were very timid after seeing stokers watching all their moves down below. No trouble after that. The Senior Engineer came down much later and said the Engine room and Boiler room was very clean with a smile on his face.

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