Australia — Team of experts to plan way forward on Amphibious Ships Fleet

The Gov­ern­ment will appoint an inde­pen­dent team of experts to devel­op a plan to address prob­lems in the repair and man­age­ment of the amphibi­ous and sup­port ship fleet.
Mr Paul Riz­zo, a Direc­tor of a num­ber of major Aus­tralian cor­po­ra­tions includ­ing the Nation­al Aus­tralia Bank and Malle­son Stephen Jacques and the Inde­pen­dent Chair of the Defence Audit and Risk Com­mit­tee, will lead the team.

He will be sup­port­ed by Air Vice Mar­shal Neil Smith (rtd) and Rear Admi­ral Bri­an Adams (rtd) who have rel­e­vant expe­ri­ence in defence admin­is­tra­tion, engi­neer­ing, main­te­nance, logis­tics, sys­tems engi­neer­ing, safe­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and the oper­a­tion and sup­port of amphibi­ous ships. 

The Terms of Ref­er­ence for their work is released today and attached.

On 1 Feb­ru­ary, the Gov­ern­ment announced that HMAS Manoo­ra was to be decom­mis­sioned on the advice of the Chief of Navy. The Manoo­ra was placed on oper­a­tional pause by the Chief of Navy after the Sea­wor­thi­ness Board in Sep­tem­ber last year, and an exam­i­na­tion of the 40 year old ship has revealed it requires reme­di­a­tion of sig­nif­i­cant hull cor­ro­sion and the replace­ment of both gear box­es. As this work would cost over $20 mil­lion and take until April 2012 to com­plete, it is not con­sid­ered val­ue for mon­ey when Manoo­ra was sched­uled to be decom­mis­sioned at the end of next year.

On receiv­ing that advice the Min­is­ter for Defence asked Defence for fur­ther advice out­lin­ing the rea­sons for the ear­ly decom­mis­sion­ing of HMAS Manoo­ra and the extend­ed unavail­abil­i­ty of HMAS Kanimbla.

This advice, released today and attached, iden­ti­fies sys­temic and cul­tur­al prob­lems in the main­te­nance of the amphibi­ous ship fleet. 

Today we also out­line ongo­ing main­te­nance activ­i­ty with respect to HMAS Tobruk.

On 28 Jan­u­ary, we were advised that with the decom­mis­sion­ing of HMAS Manoo­ra, and the extend­ed unavail­abil­i­ty of HMAS Kan­im­bla, Navy was main­tain­ing HMAS Tobruk at 48 hours notice for sea to ensure an amphibi­ous lift capa­bil­i­ty was available.

On 2 Feb­ru­ary, we were advised that HMAS Tobruk was to com­mence main­te­nance work in order to be ful­ly pre­pared to pro­vide any assis­tance in the days fol­low­ing Cyclone Yasi, in the event not required.

On 4 Feb­ru­ary, we were advised that HMAS Tobruk had left its dock and was being pre­pared to return to 48 hours notice for sea.

This has how­ev­er not yet occurred as fur­ther main­te­nance issues and prob­lems have been identified.

This work includes efforts to sur­vey, ver­i­fy, cer­ti­fy and replace a num­ber of safe­ty crit­i­cal flex­i­ble hoses nec­es­sary to ensure the safe oper­a­tion of HMAS Tobruk.

The advice about the amphibi­ous fleet pro­vid­ed by the Sec­re­tary of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force makes it clear that prob­lems with the amphibi­ous fleet have built up over the past decade or more.

It states that many of the seeds of the prob­lems we now face were sown long ago, and insuf­fi­cient resources have been allo­cat­ed to address materiel and per­son­nel short­falls since the ships were brought into ser­vice many years ago.

It also states that the estab­lish­ment of the Sea­wor­thi­ness Board in 2009 was a long over­due means of pro­vid­ing Chief of Navy with an inde­pen­dent review of mar­itime sys­tems and its review of the amphibi­ous ships pro­vid­ed a focus on the sit­u­a­tion that was not pre­vi­ous­ly available.

It is essen­tial that the prob­lems out­lined in the advice are addressed as a mat­ter of pri­or­i­ty ahead of the tran­si­tion to the new Land­ing Heli­copter Dock Ships.

That is why we have asked Mr Riz­zo to devel­op a plan to address the prob­lems iden­ti­fied by the Sec­re­tary and the Chief of the Defence Force, to reform these prac­tices, and over­see ear­ly stage imple­men­ta­tion of those reforms. 

Their work will be addi­tion­al to the new com­pre­hen­sive tran­si­tion plan we have asked Defence to pre­pare to ensure a smooth tran­si­tion to the intro­duc­tion of the LHD ships in the mid­dle of the decade.

Media Note:
Reform of Amphibi­ous and Afloat Sup­port Ship Repair and Man­age­ment Prac­tices Terms of Ref­er­ences can be found at:

Causal fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the unavail­abil­i­ty of the Navy’s two LPAs can be found at:

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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