Page 33 - Australian Defence Magazine Oct 2018
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operational program but give or take, at any given time we’ll be working on anywhere from two to four boats in parallel.”
The main challenge in Darwin is the cli- mate, Kufner says – three to four hours of torrential rain every day in the November to April wet season, and the cyclone season stretching over the same period.
“Maintenance routines remain the same throughout the year although one thing we don’t do in Darwin’s wet season is paint; the paint won’t cure, it’s too humid. If there’s a vessel that does need substantial painting for whatever reason we’ll probably take her over to Cairns and do it there.
“If we get a cyclone warning, we’ll liter- ally strap vessels that are on the hard stand or short of crews and therefore moved to the hard, to tiedown points so they can’t go anywhere. If the weather is bad enough, boats alongside with crewing available will put to sea since a cyclone at sea is generally easier to ride out. You’ve also got to remem- ber the 8.5 metre tide runs every day and the need to constantly check mooring lines.”
Depending on the UUC, planning a maintenance period involves checking on the work undertaken in the previous period and what’s scheduled, creating a time-based preventative maintenance list to which is
added any corrective maintenance and all the outstanding configuration changes that need to be made.
“We then plan our worklist and check on what materiel will be needed; usually there are no surprises because we’re look- ing at the materiel as we develop the main- tenance list,” Kuffer outlined to ADM. “There are some six-monthly tasks, some are 12 months, some are 18 or 24 months and there are even some 60-month activities involving propulsion units.
“We don’t service the two engines on board, it’s easier to remove them and install two new or refurbished engines. The ones we take out will go to the workshop where they’ll be fully refurbished and go into in- ventory ready for the next ship.”
Across Darwin and Cairns Thales has about 100 people working on the Armidale program with CASG and the supply chain to undertake all the engineering, handling the configuration management, and carrying out many of the design changes. The entire team of ship managers, planners and production personnel is involved in executing mainte- nance periods and preparing the next activity.
The unexpectedly early start to the con- tract in May 2017 involved speedy person- nel evaluation and recruitment. Thales staff turnover is now running at a normal rate according to Kufner.
“In setting up, CASG and Navy were fully appreciative of what we were trying to do so quickly and we were initially given a lot of bandwidth to do things outside the box; they supported us in those efforts and we’ve worked since then to get to a steady state as quickly as we can, including systems and procedures.”
Austal role
The Thales contract includes a requirement for a long-term commercial relationship with Austal. This has already included cooperation on the mid-life remediation by Austal of seven Armidales that began in late 2016 and is now close to completion – the same hull remedia- tion and configuration changes were carried out earlier on six Armidales in Singapore.
Austal is also invited to quote on many of the maintenance tasks that are performed on the boats in Darwin.
“Depending on their workload at the time they’ll choose to quote or not to quote on tasks as appropriate,” Kufner said. “Aus- tal is one of our key partners as they have most of the IP on the platform management systems so they tend to exclusively do that work as a sub-contractor.”
The Austal remediation dealt mainly with cracks in the boats’ aluminium hull and superstructure and repairing structural weaknesses in the platform rather than re- placing or upgrading systems.
“Generally speaking we’ve found that the boats that have been remediated are closer to having a standard maintenance period. With boats that had not been remediated we were finding some quite challenging structural work to undertake in mainte- nance periods,” Kufner explained.
The challenge there was sourcing suf- ficient aluminium-certified welders and structural workers in Darwin.
“There’s been a couple of instances of boats coming in with structural defects and on those occasions we’ve pooled with Austal and Norship to bring people from either Cairns or Perth. You can’t always find everything you need locally, but we’ve got more than 4,000 approved companies in our ship repair supply chain so we can usually find someone who can help us out.”
While the majority of Armidale main- tenance is outsourced, Thales takes direct responsibility for planning, management and execution and quality of the work. Thales is also working with the Fleet Sup- port Unit (FSU) to help utilise and up- skill this resource.
“We’ve taken on a couple of trades people and trade supervisors so that we can in- crease the work we give to the FSU, who are doing some great work on the Armidales with us as a team. Of course we retain the ultimate responsibility for the quality of the work that is delivered.
“It’s a really good story, the sailors be- come more familiar with the equipment and understand it better, and when they’re posted to a ship they’re better equipped to deal with minor to intermediate failures.
Given the early success of its Armidale work, it’s no surprise that that Thales has re- sponded to the Invitation to Register (ITR) that closed in May for the inservice support of the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) that will replace the Armidale class fleet.
The first OPV from German ship design- er Lurssen, with a combined build between ASC and Civmec, is scheduled for delivery to Defence in late 2021 with the remain- ing 11 vessels being delivered at intervals of nine months. Six of the OPVs will be home- ported in Darwin at HMAS Coonawarra.
Tendering from a shortlist is expected late this year with a downselect and con- tractual negotiations before 2019. | October 2018 | 33

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