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30 June 2012

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced that the Navy’s newest ship, Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield, had arrived in Australia.

Ocean Shield arrived at HMAS Stirling late on 28 June.

In March the Government announced it had purchased the Offshore Support Vessel Skandi Bergen to add to the Royal Australian Navy’s current amphibious ships, HMAS Choules and HMAS Tobruk, and subsequently announced that the Skandi Bergen would be renamed “Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield”.

Defence took ownership of the vessel after extensive sea trials oversighted by international shipping firm Teekay Shipping.

The arrival of this vessel 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.

As well it will be able to undertake patrols in the Southern Ocean providing surveillance, detection and apprehension of any vessels operating illegally. Ocean Shield is able to operate in sub-Antarctic weather conditions.

Ocean Shield is the sister ship of the Ocean Protector which is currently operated by Customs and Border Protection and undertakes these patrols.

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.

After Defence introduces the first LHD into service, Ocean Shield will be transferred to Customs and Border Protection to provide a long term capability for Customs and Border Protection.

Ocean Shield will join HMAS Tobruk and HMAS Choules in providing Australia’s amphibious humanitarian and disaster relief capability.

HMAS Tobruk recently completed sea trials following maintenance at Garden Island in Sydney and is currently at 48 hours readiness notice.

HMAS Choules is currently in Sydney undergoing repairs to a defect on one of the six transformers which form part of the ship’s propulsion system.

Navy and the Defence Materiel Organisation are working closely with the original manufacturer of the transformer to have it repaired and the ship return to sea. The estimated time for this work is 6 months.

Measures have been taken to improve the Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious capability since Cyclone Yasi in February 2011.

Imagery of Ocean Shield is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/11123475

When Cyclone Yasi hit North Queensland in February early 2011, Defence did not have any amphibious ships available to assist.

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 RFA Largs 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 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 (Ocean Shield) to be used by Navy, particularly for humanitarian and disaster relief situations.

Finally, under Australia’s agreement with New Zealand, HMNZS Canterbury can be made available as part of the joint Pacific-focused Ready Response Force, subject to any operational requirements in New Zealand and her scheduled maintenance period which commences at the end of August. The Australian Navy also has a number of Landing Craft Heavy boats that can be employed in support of humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

Media contact:

Mr Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528

Defence Media Operations: 02 6127 1999

Reference:

http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/06/30/minister-for-defence-and-minister-for-defence-materiel-joint-media-release-ocean-shield-arrives-in-australia/

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