Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel – Additional ship to be purchased for humanitarian and disaster relief capability

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced the next step in the Government’s plan to improve the Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious capability – the purchase of an additional humanitarian and disaster relief ship. 

The Government has authorised the purchase of a ship to add to the Royal Australian Navy’s current amphibious ships, HMAS Choules and HMAS Tobruk

The purchase of a third ship will ensure that Defence has the humanitarian and disaster relief capability required between now and the arrival of the Landing Helicopter Dock Ships in the middle of the decade. 

Defence is currently leasing the Subsea Operations Vessel Windermere to provide additional capability to the Navy over the coming cyclone season. 

Detailed decisions on the purchase of the additional ship will be taken in the near future. 

The third ship will primarily be used to transport troops and supplies in support of humanitarian and disaster relief operations domestically and in the region. 

A commercial off-the-shelf vessel will be sought so that minimal modifications will be needed allowing the ship to enter into service in the course of 2012. 

The vessel will be manned under a civilian crewing arrangement. 

Action taken this year: 

When Cyclone Yasi hit North Queensland in February this year, Defence did not have any amphibious ships available to assist. 

At that time Mr Smith and Mr Clare made no secret of their disappointment with the state of the Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious ships. 

Since that time the Government has taken a number steps to rectify the problem with the Navy’s amphibious fleet. 

First, in April the Government purchased the RFA Largs Bay from the British Government. 

The ship was today commissioned into the Royal Australian Naval fleet as HMAS Choules

Second, work was conducted on HMAS Tobruk to return it to sea. 

Third, in order to maintain the Navy’s amphibious capability over the past 12 months, ships have been leased to supplement the existing capability. Subsea Operations Vessel Windermere has been leased to provide extra support this cyclone season. 

Fourth, to ensure such a gap in capability does not happen again, the Government also commissioned Mr Paul Rizzo to develop a plan to improve the maintenance and sustainment of our naval fleet. 

That report was provided to the Government in July and the recommendations are now being implemented. 

Current Amphibious capability if required: 

The Royal Australian Navy now has the following amphibious capability if required to provide humanitarian and disaster relief during the current cyclone season: 

  • HMAS Choules;
  • HMAS Tobruk;
  • Windermere – leased from P&O until 31 January 2012, with the option to extend to the end of February 2012;
  • HMNZS Canterbury – under Australia’s agreement with New Zealand she could be made available as part of the joint Pacific-focused Ready Response Force, subject to any operational requirements in New Zealand; and,
  • A number of Landing Craft Heavy boats; 

Media Contact:

Mr Smith’s Office: Ellen Shields (02) 6277 7800 or 0400 347 473

Mr Clare’s Office: Korena Flanagan (02) 6277 7620 or 0418 251 316

Department: (02) 6127 1999


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