Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR October 2014 Contents Asia Pacific Defence Reporter OCT 2014 39
With the AWD project floundering its way to an
eventual conclusion at ASC in Adelaide, the LHD
construction virtually complete at Williamstown, two
new large supply ships to be built overseas, and the
future submarine project some way off, it isn’t looking
good for local industry.
A SHORT HISTORY
In the late 1970s a party of Australian and New
Zealand defence officials visited South Pacific island
nations to discuss the implications of the forthcoming
200 nautical mile Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ)
and the assets required by these countries to patrol
and police them. After considerable staff work, in
1983 then Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke,
announced to the South Pacific Forum meeting in
Canberra that Australia would provide a number of
patrol boats to a standard design.
The initial number was ten ships to five countries,
but that grew to 22 ships supplied to twelve countries.
Deliveries commenced in 1987 and were complete
by 1997, with vessels supplied to Papua New Guinea
(1987x2, 1988), Vanuatu (1987), Western Samoa
(1988), Solomon Islands (1988, 1991), Tonga (1989,
1990, 1991), Cook Islands (1989), Federated States
of Micronesia (1990x2, 1997), Marshall Islands
(1991), Fiji (1994, 1995x2 ), Kiribati (1994), Tuvalu
(1994) and Palau (1996).
The 162 tonne patrol boats, built to commercial
standards, are 31.5 metres long, have an 8.1 metre
beam and draw 1.8 metres. They have a range of
2500 nautical miles at 12 knots, while their twin
Caterpillar diesel engines can drive the craft at up
to 20 knots. Each ship carries a Furuno 1011 I-band
surface search radar and a range of light weapons. A
full complement is 14-18 sailors, depending on the
country. Patrol endurance is typically ten days.
The class were originally planned to have a fifteen
year service life, with refits in their seventh or eighth
year, but in 2000 the Australian Cabinet agreed to
extend the patrol boats’ life to 30 years in an $350
million program with refits at fifteen and twenty two
Islander crews train at the Australian Maritime
College in Launceston, Tasmania. Regular intakes
ensure new personnel are trained in all aspects of
navigation, communications and seamanship before
returning to their home countries to join existing
In June this year Australian Foreign Minister Julie
Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston
announced a $1.88 billion program to replace all
twenty two in-service vessels with the addition of a
new country Timor-Leste (East Timor).
"The Pacific Patrol Boat Program is an important
pillar of the Australian government's commitment to
working with our regional partners to enable cohesive
security cooperation on maritime surveillance,
including fisheries protection and transnational crime,"
Julie Bishop said.
David Johnston added “"This new program will
involve the construction of more than 20 steel,
all-purpose patrol vessels that will considerably
enhance the maritime security of our Pacific and
regional partners. Australia has a fundamental
strategic interest in the security and stability of Pacific
Senator Johnston said the rugged Australian-made
patrol boats will cost $594 million with through life
sustainment and personnel costs estimated at $1.38
billion over 30 years. These figures imply an average
vessel construction and fit-out cost of around $25
million, while the 30 year support costs will average
$60 million per patrol boat.
The Ministers further indicated that the Government
will soon put out a tender for the new boats. Provisions
for training and sustainment would be part of any
With two PNG patrol boats and one Vanuatu vessel
reaching 30 years of operational service in 2017, this
suggests that production of the first replacement craft
should start during 2016 to prove the design and
commence crew training. Thereafter the production
schedule from 2017 would have to allow for a fairly
rapid ramp up to several new vessels each year
before finally tapering off about 2024 by which time
scheduled refits could start to occur.
The current Pacific Patrol Boats are 31.5 metres
overall and their replacements will need to be a similar
length in order to continue using the existing wharf
and slip facilities in each of their host countries.
The trend in “blue water” navies is to go for a
greater LOA than 30-32 metres to obtain better range,
sea handling and crew comfort. The most recent
patrol boats built for our Australian waters were RAN
Armidale Class (56.8 metres LOA) and Customs
Cape Class (58.1 metres LOA). New Zealand has its
Protector Class IPVs (55 metres LOA).
Therefore local patrol boat designs in the 30-32
metres LOA range tend to be in limited supply. One of
the challenges is that overseas designs for this LOA
tend to focus on top speeds of 30 knots or more,
whereas this is less of a requirement for new Pacific
Patrol Boats. 20 knots top speed is fast enough for
their likely patrols.
One naval shipyard insider told APDR that the new
patrol boat hull design will need to offer a significant
improvement over the current vessel’s flat bow. He
said a modern 40 metre LOA patrol boat bow and the
latest diesel engines would give better fuel economy
than the present 31.5 metre LOA Pacific Patrol Boat.
Australia-designed choices are between BAE
Systems with its 32 metre patrol vessel developed
for the NSW Police, capable of operating out to the
EEZ limit, and Austal with its six 30 metre patrol boats
for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, to provide
sustained surveillance of its exclusive economic zone.
Both these craft designs were built in aluminium, but
independently BAE Systems Australia and Austal
spokespersons confirmed to APDR they could also
be built in steel.
Overseas the Lung Teh Shipyard, Taiwan, has
delivered three 30-metre steel patrol vessels to the
Hong Kong Marine Department. To perform its primary
law enforcement duties and patrol and search in the
Hong Kong waters, the boat is designed as a V shape
hard chine and transom stern and is described as
having good resistance, sea-keeping, manoeuvring,
low noise and vibration performance in conditions up
to Sea State 5.
IMPLICATIONS FOR AUSTRALIAN
The main naval shipyards available for new construction
include Forgacs, BAE Systems, ASC and Austal.
These shipyards are all currently engaged in projects
which will finish at varying times in the near future,
without a significant forward order book, leading to
the so-called “Valley of Death.”
The Navy’s existing Australian-made Anzac frigates
will be replaced by Future Frigates in the next decade,
and the government has pledged $78.2 million for
preliminary work. Apart from the new Pacific Patrol
Boat program, there is replacement of the Armidale
patrol boats in prospect, but little detail has been
flagged. This may have become more urgent after
the serious fire damage to HMAS Bundaberg on
12 August during maintenance work in a Brisbane
shipyard. A fourth Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) looks
With the Australian naval shipbuilding industry facing a shortage of orders
and consequent staff layoffs, the “Valley of Death”, does this new build
program represent a reprieve?
2/10/14 7:44 PM
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