Photo: Andrew Mackinnon, Melbourne
More woes for New Zealand's Projector programme
Weighty problems delay delivery of patrol vessels...
Seen here embarking on trials this month, HMNZS OTAGO, and her sister WELLINGTON, could have their deliveries further delayed by up to six months.
She is one of a group of new vessels that are part of New Zealand's Project Projector programme which has suffered a catalogue of problems. From health and safety issues, seaworthiness - through to the new headache - the OPV's are too heavy!
The vessels, part of Project Projector, built by Tenix, now owned by BAE Systems, were ice-strengthened, but this is believed to have added 100 tons which may mean they are unsuitable for their roles in Antarctic waters.
HMNZS CANTERBURY, a sea-lift vessel, the only ship in the Projector programme to be delivered so far, was the subject of a review, led by British naval engineer John Coles. It found the vessel was a poor seaboat, giving bad performance in high seas due to the commercial nature of her design and that the project overall suffered from under-estimation from the outset.
From the size and complexity of the project through to the skills required by the project team, the review concluded all had been underestimated and could be the underlying causes of the problems now being experienced with the OPVs and CANTERBURY.
Coles did say that once remedial work was undertaken on CANTERBURY, she would prove 'capable', but she could not be driven hard in bad weather. She was a 'safe' ship, but uncomfortable.
The Coles report has come under fire however from a former NZ Defence Ministry acquisition chief, Bruce Green.
An angry Mr Green refuted the report's claims of bad design and lack of seaworthiness of HMNZS CANTERBURY. Speaking to The Dominion Post in September he blasted the ship's crew for pushing the ship too hard through a storm and claimed the NZ Navy did not have their personnel trained and ready for the new vessels.
On the Coles report he said,
"I'm just disappointed that emphasis was placed on the acquisition process when there should have been just as much emphasis on the ability of the navy to use the ship and the actions of the navy during that storm."
Critics accuse the NZ government of 'getting ships on the cheap' instead of going for proven designs. But the NZ Minister of Defence stands by the designs and performance of the vessels, saying in September that once problems are ironed out the NZ Navy will be equipped with valuable assets.