Shades of grey gain attention

Published on SBLT Rohan Waldie (author), LEUT Shaun Burns (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Cairns

Topic(s): HMAS Shepparton (A03), HMAS Benalla (A04)

HMA Ships Benalla and Shepparton with the new haze grey paint scheme alongside other fleet units. (photo: LEUT Shaun Burns)
HMA Ships Benalla and Shepparton with the new haze grey paint scheme alongside other fleet units.

The Royal Australian Navy's ships are progressively getting a facelift - sporting a new paint scheme that is turning heads.

On 29 July, hydrographic vessels, HMA Ships Benalla and Shepparton made the slow descent off the Tropical Reef Shipyard in Cairns slipway and back into the water gleaming in the haze grey shipside paint. 

Upon arriving alongside HMAS Cairns they berthed astern of fellow Survey Motor Launches HMA Ships Paluma and Mermaid, and across the wharf from HMAS Melville.  It was not until Benalla and Shepparton were back in the water that you could see the vast difference in the new paint scheme, making the older paint scheme seem more green than grey.

Commanding Officer Benalla Lieutenant Commander Nick Townley said the difference was marked and generated some commentary from locals.

"A fisherman motored past and yelled out, "That’s not pussers' shipside grey! I did 23 years I know pussers' grey, what are you?", it's quite a change for some," he said.

Beyond the steely new shade there are many benefits from the new colour scheme. An extra coat of paint and the primer coat ‘inner shield’ having a smooth finish and reflective properties, which helps with reflecting heat and insulating the ship, an essential attribute to boost the efficiency of the cooling systems onboard when operating in northern waters and Papua New Guinea where Survey Motor Launches are frequently deployed.

Importantly the new grey makes the ships harder to see on the horizon. It is also reported that the paint’s properties mean that rust streaks can be easily removed with freshwater and the smooth surface coat means that less catalysts for corrosion will exist.

The application process takes upwards of ten days with tighter environmental requirements that the traditional paint scheme. This requirement for fair weather was not achieved during the original slipping dates due to a wet dry season, but the benefits of any delays should be realised by the lower maintenance into the future. It may also be a while before we see a visually aesthetic formation departure of all Survey Motor Launches as Paluma and Mermaid are not expected to sport haze grey until 2017.

Commanding Officer Benalla said that his crew didn't mind about the wait though.

"As ever Benalla’s motto rings true: We Lead Others Follow," Lieutenant Commander Townley said.