Canberra command team gets first taste of driving an LHD

Published on POIS Paul Berry (author and photographer)

Location(s): Port Ash Australia, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Port Ash Ship Handling Facility

Executive Officer NUSHIP Canberra, CMDR Jonathan Earley (seated), Navigating Officer, LCDR Calvin Johnson (standing) and Port Ash facilitator, John Ryan, hone their LHD ship-handling skills on NUSHIP Assault. (photo: POIS Paul Berry)
Executive Officer NUSHIP Canberra, CMDR Jonathan Earley (seated), Navigating Officer, LCDR Calvin Johnson (standing) and Port Ash facilitator, John Ryan, hone their LHD ship-handling skills on NUSHIP Assault.

NUSHIP Canberra's Command Team have had their first taste of raw LHD ship-handling, albeit at 1:20 scale.

Commanding Officer NUSHIP Canberra, Captain Jonathan Sadleir AM, Executive Officer, Commander Jonathan Earley and Navigating Officer, Lieutenant Commander Calvin Johnson, spent four days in August at the Australian Ship Handling Centre - Port Ash Australia near Newcastle, practicing and honing their LHD ship-handling skills on the purpose built model, NUSHIP Assault.

CAPT Sadleir said time spent at Port Ash was dedicated to assuring the model accurately represented LHD handling characteristics and working through bridge management.

“It's been a superb couple of days and it's pretty exciting. It's a versatile and manoeuvrable vessel, but that means it has more options we can potentially use and that brings with it a level of complexity,” CAPT Sadleir said.

“The beauty of it is, with a facility like Port Ash and the available simulation we have right now, we can compensate and overcome those challenges,” he said.

The hand crafted LHD model took about 12 months to complete and features the unique azimuth pod (Azipod) propulsion system.

Two 360 degree Azipod propulsion units and two bow thrusters give the LHD a high degree of manoeuvrability in confined and shallow water.

“Due to the hands-on nature and complexity of it, I am of the view that there is a need for ship-handlers to maximise simulation opportunities to remain current, much like a pilot would maintain currency in an aircraft,” CAPT Sadleir said.

“Additionally there's clearly a cost benefit; it's much cheaper to run a battery charged model than it is to run an actual LHD," he said.

Port Ash is one of only a handful of ship-model simulators in the world, featuring 2.5 hectares of water ranging depths.

The scaling effects mean one nautical mile (1852 metres) becomes 74.08 metres, three knots of wind becomes 15 knots and one hour becomes 12 minutes in the models.

Port Ash Director, CAPT Cliff Beazley, said the centre offered naval ship-handlers unique opportunities.

“We've built a finger wharf that represents Fleet Base West and we use the boat shed for an approximation of Fleet Base East, so all the familiar spots are there,” CAPT Beazley said.

“For raw ship-handling you cannot beat the real thing or the real thing in miniature, which is what we've got here,” he said.

Tug masters from DMS Maritime in Sydney were also on hand to develop LHD berthing and departing procedures.

“Berthing a ship is a system, and the tug masters are part of that, hence my desire to have them on the learning journey with us,” said CAPT Sadleir.

CMDR Earley said it was a brilliant training aid for the ship and its propulsion system.

“It's an impressive model in terms of the control, the quality of the build and the way it responds and manoeuvres,” CMDR Earley said.

“It gives us a variety of environmental conditions to work out our individual skill sets and develop confidence in using the system,” he said.

“In terms of manoeuvrability, it's light years ahead of an Anzac class ship. An FFG comes close because of its auxiliary propulsion units, but the LHD with its Azipod system plus the powerful bow thrusters; you can do almost anything with it.”

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20131299.