The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, recently corrected media reporting in News Corp newspapers on Tuesday, 31 December 2013, (Asylum seeker missions wearing down Navy’s fleet).
He said that the reporting appeared to have been based largely on an inquiry into a toxic hazard incident in HMAS Maitland in 2006, which was conducted by Major General Melick in 2011-12.
In February 2012 VADM Griggs initiated a review of Armidale Class Patrol Boat (ACPB) maintenance, which resulted in a dedicated maintenance remediation program. This program saw a significant increase in focus on maintenance and an increase of over 330 maintenance days for the Armidale fleet. The remediation program also resulted in a substantial increase of resources applied to maintenance of the Armidale fleet by the in service support contractor, Defence Maritime Services (DMS).
As a result of the remediation program and the increased resources applied by DMS, Navy has seen significant improvement in Armidale availability and reliability.
Using the dated report as its reference, the article also speculated on the sustainability of the Armidale class patrol boat fleet due to the employment of the boats in the border protection role. VADM Griggs reiterated that “There is no basis to the assertion that the boats’ employment has shortened their service life. Navy believes the planned 15 year life can bet met while continuing to meet the Australian Government’s operational requirements.”
“The nature of operations at sea is that defects will periodically arise in vessels as a normal occurrence. These defects are risk assessed for their impact on mission readiness and safety, and an appropriate repair plan is implemented. Navy’s Seaworthiness Management System, formally introduced in 2012, is designed to ensure that operational imperatives do not override the safety of Navy people and their platforms,” he said.
VADM Griggs added “The men and women of the patrol boat force provide outstanding service to the nation’s security and provided up to eight boats on the job at sea over the Christmas and New Year period.”