Page 34 - Australian Defence Magazine Aug 2019
P. 34

Are Navy’s fast boats fit for purpose?
COMPARATIVELY little attention, on the other hand, seems to be paid to the auxil- iary boats that allow heavy warships to do today’s jobs - tracking and boarding suspect craft ranging from Somali dhows to North Korean oil tankers. The RAN’s jet-pro- pelled Juliet 3 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBS) are critical to these missions, car- rying boarding parties at speed across the last kilometres of open ocean. Yet Navy’s RHIBs may not be fit for purpose.
The first hints of a problem emerged in 2012, when a RHIB carrying members of a Defence tribunal onto HMAS Darwin capsized and caused a number of injuries.
The subsequent investigation found that Navy had “inadequate hazard identifica- tion and risk assessment arrangements in place for boarding [and] transfer of person- nel” as well as an absence of capsize training or experience with RHIBs amongst senior officers. This appears to be the only such in- cident on the public record.
The problem, however, runs much deep- er. First, information obtained by ADM under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that there have been 13 capsizing incidents and 19 near-misses involving fast boats since 2003, potentially injuring doz- ens of personnel.
Much has been made of the money currently pouring into Australia’s fleet. The new and forthcoming warships and submarines will form the backbone of Navy’s ability to compete in the high-end fights of tomorrow.
34 | August 2019 |

   32   33   34   35   36