TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP – ADV OCEAN SHIELD
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 30 JUNE 2012
TOPICS: ADV Ocean Shield; Spanish Armada ship Cantabria; Collins Class Submarines.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well thanks very much for turning up. I'm very pleased to be here with Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, the Chief of Navy. Also pleased to be here with Captain Brett Wolski, who is the Commander of HMAS Stirling and also pleased to be welcomed on board the Ocean Shield by the Captain of the ship, Captain Jason Britton.
Today the Chief of Navy and I are very pleased to welcome Navy's newest asset, the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield, started off in life as the Skandi Bergen. We acquired her, changed her name and she's sailed from Norway over the last month or so to arrive in Perth at HMAS Stirling late on Thursday. From here, she'll travel to Sydney and in the next week or so she will be available for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work for the Australian Navy.
That adds to the capability that we have: HMAS Tobruk, one of our longstanding heavy amphibious lift disaster relief ships is available at 48-hours notice. It's just come out of a period of maintenance. HMAS Choules, which we purchased from the British in the last 12 months or so, has in recent times unfortunately suffered a serious defect with the blowing of a transformer. That is now currently under intense work, but we expect that HMAS Choules will be available and back in service by the end of the year.
In the meantime, so far as our heavy amphibious lift and our disaster relief and humanitarian assistance capacity is concerned, we also have our longstanding agreement with New Zealand, which makes HMNZS Canterbury available for cooperative work and we also complement that with the availability of our heavy landing craft.
So we're very pleased to have acquired this vessel. Our long-term plan for this vessel, which is two years on a sister ship to the Ocean Protector but more advanced. Our long-term plan for this ship is that when we see the arrival of our Landing Helicopter Docks, which come from Spain, in the middle of this decade, we'll transfer this ship to Customs and Border Protection to do work for Customs and Border Protection, in particular in the Great Southern Ocean because this has an ice hull capacity. So we're very pleased to pick up this ship and very pleased to welcome it to HMAS Stirling.
Secondly, I mentioned the Landing Helicopter Docks. They of course are being built in Spain with the integration work to be done in Melbourne, and we expect to see our two Landing Helicopter Docks, Canberra and Adelaide, available for service from the middle of this decade.
Vice-Admiral Griggs will travel from Perth to Spain, and in the course of next week we’ll see the keel launch of the second of the Landing Helicopter Docks. As well, when he's in Spain he will pursue with his Spanish counterpart the arrangement we are proposing to enter into with Spain to make available one of the Spanish Armada supply ships, the Cantabria, to come to Australia for 2013 to do joint work with the Australian Navy, joint exercises, as a supply ship.
This reinforces and underlines the growing Navy-to-Navy relationship that we have with Spain. We see Spain very much involved in the design and the construction of our Air Warfare Destroyers, again which we will see come on stream effectively in the middle of this decade, our Landing Helicopter Docks, and now practical and cooperative work that we'll do next year in and around Australia with the Spanish Armada ship, the Cantabria.
This is a very good thing for Australia. It's also a very good thing for Spain, because it enables Spain to engage in exercises and deployment a long way away from home. And so Vice-Admiral Griggs will pursue the detail of that arrangement, which we're announcing today.
Finally today, we're announcing a new in-service support contract for the Collins Class Submarine fleet. The previous maintenance and sustainment contract has been in place since about 2003. We've been working very hard to put the maintenance and sustainment of our Collins Class Submarine on a much better footing, and pursuing an in-service to port contract was strongly supported by the first phase of the Coles review and that contract will become effective from 1 July. So, effective from Monday.
That will help make our maintenance and sustainment of our Collins Class Submarines much more efficient and much more effective, and in the course of the budget we're allocating some additional $700 million over the forward estimate years for maintenance and sustainment of our Collins Class Submarines, and you'll see Dechaineux docked behind us, which is just about ready to go out to become available for service.
I'll ask Vice-Admiral Griggs to make some remarks about those matters, and then I'm happy to respond to your questions. Ray?
RAY GRIGGS: Thank you Minister, it's three very important announcements for Navy today. I think those of you who've walked around this ship this morning will have seen its inherent capabilities. A very, very modern state-of-the-art ship that will be a great addition to our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities. And we're very, very pleased to have it as part of the overall capability of Navy.
In terms of the deployment of the Spanish tanker the Cantabria, that is a very important activity for us. It's an innovative way of doing business and I'm very, very pleased about the arrangement that we've developed with the Spanish Armada in taking this forward.
The Cantabria has very many similar systems to the LHD and the Air Warfare Destroyer and this will allow a number of Navy people to embark in the Cantabria while she is in Australian waters and to get some very important early training and familiarisation with some of those systems before they then go on to crew the LHD and the air warfare destroyer. So that's a great initiative that we're announcing today.
And the final announcement that the Minister made about the in-service support contract for the Collins Class is a really fundamental shift in the way we do our submarine maintenance. It puts a focus and a premium on performance for all the players in the submarine sustainment game, and over time it will increase the availability of our submarines and in time reduce the cost of maintaining them, so a very, very good suite of announcements for Navy today.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks, Ray. We're happy to respond to your questions.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well in the past ships like this, the Ocean Protector, or the Oceanic Viking, have only been used in that way if they've been on the scene, so to speak, to assist in search and rescue exercise. So in the normal course of events, no that wouldn't occur; but you might recall that in the past we've seen, for example, the Oceanic Viking be used in a search and rescue context.
Because this is a very significant capability, and because we will be in due course, by about the middle of this decade, handing it over to Customs and Border Protection, in the main for Customs and Border Protection work for fisheries in the Great Southern Ocean, we will look at the possibility over that period of time doing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work for this ship but also seeing if it's possible to also accommodate some work for Customs and Border Protection. But we don't envisage, other than in extreme situations, that this would be regularly taking part in the north and border protection work.
JOURNALIST: When you're talking about illegal fishing activities down the south end, can you elaborate on what some of those are and is whaling included in that?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well whaling is not generally included, on a one-off occasion back in 2008 the Government used one of the effective sister ships to go to the Great Southern Oceans and collect video and photographic evidence and that evidence will now be used in the course of the International Court of Justice whaling case, which Australia has taken to the International Court with Japan.
It's used to patrol our southern waters for illegal fishing, rare and valuable Patagonian fish, for example, that forms a regular part of the work that Customs and Border Protection do in our Great Southern Oceans, and of course from time to time in those dangerous waters we also see search and rescue efforts.
STEPHEN SMITH: It's the Ocean Protector's sister ship, but it was built in Norway two years after, or later, than the Ocean Protector; so the briefing I've had from Captain Britton and also from other members of the vessel, it's more technologically advanced. And so the ship effectively runs almost stand-alone by computer; so it's a value-add on Ocean Protector.
The design is essentially off the same design program, but it's two years advanced from that; and you would have seen for yourself the capabilities that it has, particularly at the bridge area, which all of the Navy and Maritime Navy officials on-board have told me is the biggest and the best bridge they have been on. So it's a significant value-add.
In terms of cost, my memory is we picked it up at about $US130 million, and that was at a time when the Australian dollar was at or just above parity, so about $130 to $AUS140 million. So we regard that very much as value for money.
JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] What types of disasters do you anticipate this could be used for?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we need to be available at all times for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in our region. Not just in our own case, but also in the Pacific and also in South East Asia. So in the past, for example, our heavy amphibious ship fleet has been utilised for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Indonesia and the aftermath of an earthquake; it's been used in the Pacific in the aftermath of a tsunami, and of course we need to be ever ready and available for on-shore disaster and humanitarian assistance.
One of the reasons that we have picked up this ship is that in February of 2011, when Cyclone Yasi struck Cairns, we did not have a heavy amphibious ship available, as a result of the failure of the Manoora, the Kanimbla and the Tobruk; and that's why with the purchase of this vessel, the purchase of the HMAS Choules, we have replenished and renewed our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief fleet.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible question]
STEPHEN SMITH: It will be based in HMAS Kuttabul. It will be based at Fleet Base East, or, because I'm a Western Australianer - as I describe it, the other Garden Island; not the Garden Island - so it will be based there. But obviously from time to time it will visit here and other ports, and we expect it will take, I'm told, about a week to get to Sydney, and pretty quickly it will be available for service.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible question]
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, we have a significant maritime build capacity in our own right, and so at the moment, for example, you'll see us planning very carefully, very forensically, for our future submarine. We've committed ourselves to assembling our future submarine fleet, our 12 new Submarines in Adelaide. You see at the moment, as we speak, work going on for the Air Warfare Destroyer occurring in three ship yards around the countryside, in Newcastle, in Melbourne and in Adelaide.
When the two LHDs come to Australia, the first of which we expect to come, the Canberra, we expect to come in about August, the integration work, which is a very significant build requirement, will be done in Melbourne, as will the second, the Adelaide, which the Vice Admiral is helping to launch in Spain during the week. So there is a significant amount of maritime work that we do, and in the past we've seen, for example, Frigates or Patrol Boats also constructed in Australia. I don't think, given the expertise that the Scandinavian countries have in this type of ship, that we would see ourselves as being competitive in that environment.
But certainly, we continue to look to the Australian manufacturing and maritime industry to be capable with the skills to do the work that we need to see done in our Destroyers, our Submarines, and also, of course we have a very significant maintenance and sustainment program which we see ongoing for all of our ships, but also including our Patrol Boats, which are smaller than our Frigates.
JASON BRITTON: Well, what sticks out is its versatility, in dealing with a cyclone, in dealing with a tsunami or an earthquake. Following an earthquake you've got a ship that doesn't need a port facility. So if you take what happened in Aceh, and those tragic events there, the ships that went up there had to rely on their own capabilities to be able to transfer equipment from the ship to shore because the port infrastructure was totally destroyed. That's what is special about the ship, that's what gives it its great flexibility and capability.
STEPHEN SMITH: Jason will tell you that everything about the ship is special.
JASON BRITTON: Thank you Minister. Okay. That's good, I can-
JASON BRITTON: This ship is capable of actually just turning up and becoming an operational command, producing and facilitating a docking facility, such that other vessels can come through the vessel. This ship can hold its own position in some fairly strong winds. It was built to the North Sea Class. So basically, as I was saying before, when there's a cyclone coming through Cairns, we can come on the back of the wind, and when other vessels wouldn't even consider coming anywhere near Cairns, in 60 to 80 knot winds we can come in on the back of that quite comfortably, then position ourselves dynamically such that the vessel just holds position, and as the cyclone moves through and we find safer water, we can just move the ship such that by the time the cyclone passes through Cairns, for example, and everybody opens their windows to see what's left of Cairns, you'll have the Ocean Shield sitting on their back doorstep.
From there we have 1000 tonnes of fresh water on board, we can carry a lot of fuel, we have 1000 square metres of open deck here, plus a crane that can move up to 60 tonnes in the heaviest spot. By dynamically positioning, we can have other vessels such as landing craft coming alongside us and we can facilitate moving the servicing ashore. But most of all it's just the power. This ship has two by 3000 kilowatt thrusters just below you here, two 1800 kilowatt tunnel thrusters up forward, plus also retractable. What that basically means for this ship is I can move this ship six knots sideways, which I don't think there's any ships around that can do that around here. We can go 16 and a half knots forward and we can do 13 knots astern. So basically, she's a very, very, as a Ship Master and Captain, she's a magnificent ship, in the way of power and versatility, and there's nothing more, for me, more proud to be master of a vessel that is capable of doing what she's doing.
This ship will make a name for herself, she'll be famous one day.
JOURNALIST: And what about how many people can actually fit on board?
JASON BRITTON: Yes, total on board is 100, so that's the total allowable. There's of course a ship's crew that goes with that, so let's say about 80, with accommodation for 80 others.
JASON BRITTON: Yes, we're very proud of it. Yes, it's quite good and can carry helicopters up to about 14 foot, six tonnes.
STEPHEN SMITH: Okay. All right. Well thanks very much. I've got to head off, but I just want to mention that the local State Member for HMAS Stirling Mark McGowan is here, so we're very pleased to welcome Mark on board the ship. He's here in his capacity as a Dad with his three children, all of whom from memory are under 10. But Mark a strong supporter of the base, as is the local Federal Member Gary Gray, so we're pleased to welcome Mark here as well.
Thanks very much everyone. Thank you.