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n the light of Australia’s continuing
problems in the naval shipbuilding sector,
it is interesting to see what New Zealand is
doing with far more modest means when it
comes to upgrading their ANZAC Frigates.
Australia and New Zealand ordered the German
designed MEKO class frigates at the same time
twenty years ago. This came about as a rare
consequence of both navies running a combined
project office and both Governments remaining
committed to a project that promised significant
savings through scale – a single order for 10 ships
rather than separate contracts for eight and two.
Both countries received significant industrial
benefits as a result.
New Zealand made no secret that they felt they
had the better part of the deal, with the defence
Minister of the time remarking that “they made the
Australian Government squeal” when it came to
negotiations over price. Since then, the Royal New
Zealand Navy has slowly moved away from the
common baseline with Australia, most recently
through a platform systems upgrade which is
now at a half way point. For a relatively modest
outlay of NZ$60 million in 2007, the frigates
have had their main diesel engines replaced with
new versions that are not only more powerful
than those originally installed but also easier to
support. This has been no simple undertaking,
with changes also required to the associated
gearboxes, couplings and control systems.
Amazingly – by Australian standards – the New
Zealanders have undertaken this impressive
engineering feat with a programme management
team of two people.
The Australian ANZAC frigate system
programme office in Freemantle employs 106
people, plus some contractors. The difference
between the approaches of the countries is stark.
New Zealand has contracted four companies to
manage the work: Noske Kaiser (NZ); Siemens
(NZ); Australian Marine Technologies (AMT) and
Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems Australia. All
four companies have been involved in the project
even before the acquisition contract was signed
in 1989. Australia has opted for a far more heavily
bureaucrat approach to supporting the ships,
characterised by high costs and slow decision
The role of AMT is particularly instructive.
AMT was established by Blohm+Voss (Australia)
for whom the author once worked – as the “in
country” design authority to support the ANZACs.
The creation of AMT involved Australian marine
engineers and naval architects spending time in
Hamburg at the parent yard and then with all
the requisite skills in place, relocate initially to
Canberra and then ultimately Melbourne. AMT
now privately owned - maintains the closest
possible connection in Germany with Thyssesn
Krupp Marine Systems, who own Blohm+Voss.
Despite providing ongoing support to the New
Zealand Navy and despite working hand in glove
with the ship’s parent designer, Australia has gone
down a different path, choosing instead to use BAE
Systems as the design authority. This has come
about because in the 1990s the prime contractor
Tenix decided to set up its own design bureau
in effect in competition to AMT – because
the commercial opportunity was apparently too
good to miss. BAE Systems acquired Tenix in
2007 and with it the activity supporting the Royal
Australian Navy’s ANZACS. So even though BAE
Systems itself has never designed or built an
ANZAC – indeed it is a bitter commercial rival of
TKMS – it continues to undertake work for the
RAN, while AMT supports New Zealand from their
Willaimstown shipyard office.
BAE Systems are now having extremely well
publicized difficulties with work on the Air Warfare
Destroyer modules and the company in turn
has tried shifting some of the blame to Spanish
designer Navantia. It is accepted that there have
been some issues with the quality and timeliness
of some design drawings, but it seems odd that the
other module builders Forgacs and ASC have been
able to cope, while BAE Systems has not. Mind
you, it is early days with Forgacs still many months
away from delivering a finished product.
While the ANZAC frigate project has been
remarkably successful so far, the ships will require
further upgrades and improvements especially if –
as seems increasingly likely – the Anti Ship Missile
Defence programme is applied to all eight ships.
The ships will also receive a new communications
suite and will need some changes to operate
whichever naval helicopter is acquired through
AIR 9000 Phase 8. With all of this in mind,
Defence might wish to look at their own project
management arrangements and to pay attention
to how the New Zealand navy has so successfully
carried out their upgrades. APDR
Amazingly – by Australian standards – the New Zealanders have
undertaken this impressive engineering feat with a programme
management team of two people.
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