ADECS 2018: Australia hunts for new hydrographic survey ship
Gordon Arthur / Hong Kong
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) continues its search for a new hydrographic survey ship, with an invitation to register going out to industry for suitable specialist designs.
Project Sea 2400 Phase 1, christened the Hydrographic Data Collection Capability, will replace and expand existing RAN capabilities with a new vessel and associated survey systems. The solution could be an in-service design or a modified platform.
With Australia’s new amphibious capability, as well as the future induction of 12 new submarines, this project will introduce a strategic military survey capability to meet the navy’s hydrographic and oceanographic survey requirements.
Thus, it will integrate the deployable Rapid Environment Assessment capability (e.g. survey boats and containerised systems) being acquired under Project Sea 1770 Phase 1.
The survey vessel’s tasks will include collection of seabed sonar data and water column data. The ship will also carry surface, underwater and aerial unmanned vehicles that can be operated simultaneously.
This survey capability was highlighted in the 2016 Defence White Paper, which stipulated an ‘efficient combination of military and commercial hydrographic and oceanographic capabilities’, with A$1-2 billion ($800 million - $1.6 billion) allocated in the Integrated Investment Plan issued in 2016.
There are still unknown variables such as whether the ship must be built in Australia, or its exact construction schedule.
Currently the RAN operates two 2,170t Leeuwin-class survey ships, these being commissioned in 2000, and four 320t Paluma-class survey motor launches commissioned between 1989 and 1991.
Underscoring the importance of hydrographic research, Australia’s exclusive economic zone encompasses 10.2 million km² (including its Antarctic territory), while its charting area measures 50 million km². Furthermore, 66% of Australia’s coastline shallower than 200m remains inadequately surveyed.
The invitation to register for Project Sea 2400 Phase 1, being managed by the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), closes on 5 February.