Marine technicians and support staff posted to HMAS Toowoomba have rallied together to conduct a complex repair while the ship was overseas on deployment.
A rare defect occurred within the number 2 generator while preparing for the sea phase of Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC 18) multinational exercise in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. One of the pistons impacted an inlet valve damaging the piston, head assembly and cylinder liner.
The loss of the diesel generator reduced Toowoomba’s overall power generation capacity. An urgent repair was required to continue with the ship’s participation in exercises and subsequent deployment.
An international effort commenced to bring the required parts and expertise together to affect the repair. A defect of this kind is rarely seen by ship’s staff, and Able Seaman Marine Technician Corey Bunyan, who was involved in the repair, likened it to open heart surgery. Multiple auxiliary systems required removal for access to the core internals of the engine.
Five Toowoomba sailors and a civilian Penske diesel technician made up the repair team. Demonstrating a ‘fight to fix’ mindset, the team worked tirelessly over four days to successfully dismantle and replace all of the damaged components.
Seaman Marine Technician Ashleigh Pennie, who joined the Navy in February 2017, was fascinated by the complexity and effort required to repair the engine.
“Being part of such a complex task this early in my career is fantastic and has provided me with invaluable technical experience. The positive team environment in which we were working made the entire job both fun and extremely rewarding. This is what I ultimately joined the Navy for.”
Marine Technicians in the Royal Australian Navy receive technical training prior to being posted to a seagoing vessel to consolidate their knowledge. This challenge provided an excellent opportunity to broaden the technical experience of Toowoomba’s Marine Technicians and put their training to the test.
Leading Seaman Marine Technician Ross Kennedy was in charge of the repair and admitted he learnt a few new tricks as he worked side-by-side with his civilian counterpart over the course of the repair.
“This has been an excellent learning experience and it is great to see that Navy’s relationship with external service providers now enable complex rectifications in the seagoing environment. It has also been extremely satisfying to be able to employ my training in a real world situation to enable my ship to regain full operational capability.”
Petty Officer Maritime Logistics Supply Chain Renee Adams, who led the logistics side of the repair, said significant coordination between the engineering and logistic branches was essential to ensure the delivery of numerous engine parts required for the repair.
“I had to order and track over 100 components flying half way around the world from Germany and all around Australia to meet Toowoomba’s operational program.”
Through cooperation with industry partners the generator was restored with no impact to operations while concurrently saving resources and maximising capability output. For Mr Greg Gardyne, the Penske diesel technician temporarily ‘enlisted’ to assist in the repair effort, this proved an invaluable opportunity to experience life at sea and foster positive working relations between industry and Navy.
Notwithstanding the core work carried, there was also significant coordination by supporting units ashore such as the Surface Combatant Group who also needed to consider the engineering and commercial impacts, balancing the technical risk and costs associated with the repair.
According to Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Bryan Southwell of the Surface Combatant Group:
“This outcome was the result of an extensive effort made to support Toowoomba and allow them to conduct the repair. We train our sailors to be ready to conduct this sort of maintenance, and it was excellent to enable this from our position, supporting capability from ashore and liaising between Defence Industry as well as the logistics and engineering agencies involved to deliver a win-win solution.”
HMAS Toowoomba has completed a South-East Asia Deployment, RIMPAC 18 and Indo-Pacific Endeavour 18 during her seven month deployment and is due to return to her home port at Fleet Base West early next month.