Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced that the Government had agreed to purchase the Offshore Support Vessel MSV Skandi Bergen.
The Skandi Bergen will add to the Royal Australian Navy’s current amphibious ships, HMAS Choules and HMAS Tobruk. The 6,500 tonne ship is 105m long and 21m wide. It has accommodation for up to 100 people, more than 1000 metres of deck area, and a helipad.
The purchase of the Skandi Bergen – at a cost of less than $130 million – will ensure that Defence has the humanitarian and disaster relief capability required between now and the arrival of the two new Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships in the middle of the decade.
It will primarily be used to transport troops and supplies in support of humanitarian and disaster relief operations domestically and in the region.
The purchase of this vessel will also provide a long term capability for Customs and Border Protection.
After Defence introduces the LHDs into service, the vessel will be transferred to Customs and Border Protection.
The Skandi Bergen will be able to undertake patrols in the Southern Ocean providing surveillance, detection and apprehension of any vessels operating illegally. The vessel is able to operate in sub-Antarctic weather conditions.
The commercial off-the-shelf vessel will require minimal modifications and will enter into service in the middle of the year and will be operated under a civilian crewing arrangement.
The Skandi Bergen is the sister ship of the ACV Ocean Protector, currently operated by Customs and Border Protection.
Action taken since Cyclone Yasi:
When Cyclone Yasi hitNorth Queenslandin February early last year, Defence did not have any amphibious ships available to assist.
At that time Minister Smith and Minister 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 of steps to rectify the problem with the Navy’s amphibious fleet.
First, in April last year the Government purchased the RFALargs Bay from the British Government. In December it was officially commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy as the HMAS Choules.
Second, work was conducted on HMAS Tobruk to return it to sea.
Third, in order to maintain the Navy’s amphibious capability, ships were leased to supplement the existing capability. Subsea Operations Vessel Windermere was leased to provide extra support during the 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. The recommendations from the Rizzo report are now being implemented.
Fifth, in December last year Minister Smith and Minister Clare announced that they would pursue the purchase of an additional ship to be used by Navy, particularly for humanitarian and disaster relief situations.
Current Amphibious capability if required:
The Royal Australian Navy currently has the following amphibious capability:
- HMAS Choules;
- HMAS Tobruk;
- Landing Craft Heavy vessels; and
- 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
Imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/fotoweb/Grid.fwx?archiveId=5003&search=11120487
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Mr Clare’s Office: Korena Flanagan (02) 6277 7620 or 0418 251 316
Department: (02) 6127 1999