17 Februari 2011
In the period of 1997-2001, RAN leased high speed ferry catamaran as HMAS Jervis Bay AKR-45 (photo : Idris Welch)
THE federal government should move quickly to plug a hole in the navy's amphibious ship-lift capability by leasing or buying a locally-built high-speed catamaran, a respected defence think tank says.
The acquisition of a catamaran like the Tasmanian-built Jervis Bay, leased during the 1999 East Timor crisis, would be a useful addition to the Royal Australian Navy fleet, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Andrew Davies said.
Yesterday, Defence Minister Stephen Smith lashed his own department over its failure to keep its ships seaworthy and maintain a deployable heavy-lift amphibious capability.
Dr Davies, director of ASPI's operations and capability program, said experience gained during the five-year lease of the Jervis Bay was proof of the military viability of commercial high-speed catamarans.
“This seems to be a situation where considerable national capability can be acquired for a relatively small outlay,” he said.
It would take more than 12 months for the lease or purchase of a surplus Royal Navy bay class amphibious support vessel from Britain, Dr Davies warned.
He said the Jervis Bay example showed the capability could be achieved more easily through the lease of a high-speed commercial vessel.
“The RAN could acquire a capability that is not just useful for the smaller jobs that do not require the capabilities of a large vessel, but would gain considerable flexibility in terms of the speed and concurrency of deployments, including the wherewithal to augment the LHDs (new Canberra class) with what is essentially a fast ferry service.”