Thinking outside the box to keep sailors fed and safe at sea

This article has photo gallery Published on CMDR Sean Noble (author), LEUT Kara Wansbury (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Topic(s): Operations, HMAS Perth (F157)

HMAS Perth's vertrep party begin to store ship on the flight deck after United States Naval Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez and HMAS Perth conducted a replenishment at sea (RAS) during Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
HMAS Perth's vertrep party begin to store ship on the flight deck after United States Naval Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez and HMAS Perth conducted a replenishment at sea (RAS) during Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.

Well-fed sailors and well-maintained equipment keep Navy’s ships at sea and the crew of HMAS Perth (III) recently demonstrated how a few creative solutions could guarantee just that, during their recent deployment as part of Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.

The dilemma and challenge for the ship was to remain at sea indefinitely, safely, away from shore support and supply and without ditching waste, while supporting the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

“We were assigned to Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN with no end date for the task, so we had to be creative regarding our management of waste, ability to store fresh and frozen supplies and conduct maintenance of our equipment,” said Commander Sean Noble, the ship’s Maritime Logistics Officer.

An SA-330J Puma Helicopter positions supplies on the flight deck of HMAS Perth during a vertrep with USNS Cesar Chavez as part of Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.

An SA-330J Puma Helicopter positions supplies on the flight deck of HMAS Perth during a vertrep with USNS Cesar Chavez as part of Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.

Their first priority was to increase endurance, reconfiguring a cool room to achieve it, and it’s not just as simple as flipping a switch and reducing the temperature of the fridge!

“We had to empty the stock in one cool room, essentially use all the food in that fridge and then reduce the temperature for 24 hours to prove the reconfiguration, before bringing in the frozen food,” Commander Noble said.

We had to make sacrifices to reduce cool room storage too, so we used long life milk in lieu of fresh, but the crew was able to enjoy freshly baked bread each day so it was not all bad,” he said.

A ship’s company of 200 personnel generates waste on a daily basis and the holding of that waste onboard proved another opportunity for creative thinking.

As an Anti Ship Missile Defence (ASMD) upgraded Anzac class frigate, the ship has been significantly modified to include the ASMD system. The most obvious of the modifications is a large cupola located aft of the mast. This weight displacement is compensated with additional ballast and an enclosed quarterdeck that improves buoyancy and stability.

Anzac class ships without the upgrade store waste in the open air environment of their open quarterdeck.  This is not possible onboard Perth, because hers is enclosed.

“We created a ‘rubbish sack’ to hold extra garbage onboard and placed it aft of the funnels on 02 deck. The clever thing about this is that it was so simple, yet it allowed us to temporarily hold an extra 34 cubic metres of garbage during the deployment,” Commander Noble said.

Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Scott Wheeler sows a large mesh bag onboard the hanger of HMAS Perth in order to sustain waste management during Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.

Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Scott Wheeler sows a large mesh bag onboard the hanger of HMAS Perth in order to sustain waste management during Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.

The final solution to increase the volume of frozen food storage, increase the storage capacity of ship waste and enable maintenance of equipment was the co-ordinated replenishment at sea evolutions with tankers assigned to Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN, HMAS Success and USNS Cesar Chevaz.

“We pre-positioned food onboard Success and were able to receive a much needed boost to our frozen stores after completing the replenishment at sea,” Commander Noble said.

Seventeen pallets of Naval stores, required to complete maintenance at sea, replenish naval stores and set the ship up for a later planned Self Maintenance Period, were delivered by the United States Navy replenishment vessel Cesar Chevaz during the deployment.

“The replenishment at sea with Cesar Chevaz enabled us to also offload some naval stores back into the shore supply chain and more importantly to get rid of our waste; with the tankers in the mix we were well looked after,” Commander Noble said.

“I am really proud of the way that all the departments onboard Perth worked together to keep us at sea during that deployment. We ended up staying at sea for 40 days, exceeding our standard endurance; and everyone was fed, safe and able to do their jobs,” he said.