US Navy contracts for WA-based companies

Two Western Australian-based companies have both secured important contracts from the United States Navy. Shipbuilder Austal has been awarded a contract to design and construct up to 10 new ships, while the USN has also exercised a purchase option on Mobilarm VHF locator beacons.

Austal’s deal with the US Navy covers building up to 10 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), with an initial contract for the first vessel valued at $US432.1 million plus options for nine additional vessels. The deal means Austal's total order book is now worth $A1.3 billion. The company has already completed one LCS, and is building one other, under separate contracts.

The aluminium warships will be built at Austal’s US shipyard, with construction of the first new LCS vessel to commence in early 2012. It is scheduled for delivery in 2015.

Austal Limited’s chairman, John Rothwell said the contract is a very significant milestone for the company, and expressed his pride that Austal has been selected to produce this important class of vessels for the US Navy.

“This contract has firmly established Austal as an international defence shipbuilder, is a strong vote of confidence in Austal’s aluminium trimaran LCS design, and also reflects the strength and capability of our USA operations and highly-skilled workforce,” said Rothwell.

The US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has confirmed its support of Perth-based marine safety equipment provider Mobilarm's V200 Submariner VHF Locator Beacon development project, by exercising its option to purchase an additional $US300,000 worth of test units and engineering services. The option was exercised following initial testing success of the VHF Locator Beacon and precedes extensive final capability testing. NAVSEA will then look to procure the V200 for its submarine fleet.
Mobilarm was awarded a Sole Source contract by NAVSEA in April 2010 to develop a modified version of the Mobilarm V100 VHF Locator Beacon specifically for use during and after an at-sea evacuation from a submarine.

NAVSEA has stated that Mobilarm is the only known company with the required technology to meet the US Navy's technical and schedule requirements. Sea trials are planned to take place in June 2011 when NAVSEA will undertake a large-scale sea and air capability demonstration involving multiple vessels and aircraft from the US Navy fleet and US Coast Guard, including satellite tracking of the beacon's AIS capability.

The capability testing follows on from a successful joint exercise between the US and Royal Australian navies in November 2010, which was conducted at the Submarine Escape Training Facility on Garden Island, WA, and successfully confirmed the wearability and operational benefits of the beacon.

Mobilarm chief executive officer, Lindsay Lyon said: “The US Navy's decision to proceed with purchasing the second tranche of V200 units and related engineering services is very encouraging and marks another key milestone in our partnership with NAVSEA. Furthermore, their commitment to undertake a very costly and large-scale capability exercise clearly indicates enthusiasm for the technology. We have already received enquiries from Navy surface fleets as a result of our ability to deliver on this project.

“The US Navy has in place 71 commissioned submarines, each carrying approximately 143 people. This could provide strong initial revenue for Mobilarm upon procurement. There are also additional opportunities to follow with a large number of NATO countries,” he said.

Farstad secures new Australian charters
Norwegian offshore support vessel operator Farstad Shipping has secured a number of new contracts for vessels to operate in support of offshore oil and gas programs in Australian waters.

Chevron Australia has confirmed three-year charters for two near-new anchor handling tug/supply (AHTS) vessels. Far Shogun and Far Saracen are both 24,000hp UT731CD design AHTS vessels delivered by shipbuilder STX in 2010. They will support Chevron Australia’s drilling program off the northwest coast of Australia with the new semi-submersible rig Atwood Osprey. Chevron also has options to further charter each of the vessels for a total period of three years.

The charters are scheduled to commence in March 2011 and are a significant continuation to the long-term relationship Farstad Shipping has with Chevron in Australia. The vessels had previously been trading the spot market in the North Sea, and departed for Australia during January.

Farstad’s platform supply vessel Lady Melinda, a 2003 vintage UT755 design, has been chartered on a firm three-year contract by ConocoPhillips, Australia for its Bayu Undan operations. ConocoPhillips also has an extension option for a further two years. The charter commenced in late December 2010 in direct continuation of a previous charter.

These new contracts further strengthen and enhance Farstad Shipping's reputation as the leading vessel provider in Australia.

Austal purchases systems integrator
In a further sign of its increasing defence role, shipbuilder Austal has acquired Canberra-based company Australian Technology Information (ATI).

ATI provides specialised services to the Australian Defence Force including systems engineering and integration, information technology, verification and validation systems and deployable tactical command centres. In financial year 2010 ATI turnover totalled $6.1 million.

Commenting on the acquisition Austal chief operating officer Andrew Bellamy said: “ATI has developed a very successful business in providing state-of-the-art systems engineering and associated technologies to the Australian Defence Forces.

“These technologies are an ideal complement to Austal’s existing design and production capability in the defence sector and will allow Austal to expand the range of services and products that it can deliver to defence customers worldwide,” he said.

Having recently delivered patrol boats to the Queensland Police, the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of Malta, Austal is also currently contracted to provide two Littoral Combat Ships and three Joint High Speed Vessels for the US Navy.

The company has also revealed that it is a contender for the award of contract to supply the new Cape Class patrol boats to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Tenders have been lodged and a winner is expected to be selected in April 2011.

New Pilot Boats for Port Phillip
Since a tragedy in treacherous seas in 1991, Port Phillip Sea Pilots has been introducing bigger, more powerful launches into its fleet. The latest two feature an innovative European design, local composite craftsmanship and 1600hp from twin Cummins diesels.

Two decades ago, three men died after the pilot launch George Tobin was swamped after flipping stern-over-bow in The Rip at the entrance to Port Phillip; an incident that highlighted the need for more capable vessels than the 12.9m, 600hp George Tobin.

The new breed that emerged was 16.5m long and propelled by twin 700hp Cummins KTA19 engines, giving the crews the ability to power out of trouble in more extreme conditions than previously. In 2005, they switched from the mechanical KTA19 to the electronic QSK19 Cummins resulting in a 1600hp pilot boat — believed to be the most powerful of its type in Australia.

Two new launches commissioned last year have now gone into service. The larger of these, Akuna IV was acquired at a cost of approximately $3.25 million. The 18.5m long, 6.1m wide vessel displaces 30 tonnes and operates at 26kts. Top speed is in excess of 30kts. Twin QSK19s deliver 1600hp but differ from the earlier Cummins engines in that they feature a modular common rail fuel system that enables cleaner, quieter and faster power delivery.

The other new launch is the 14.3m Ranger III powered by twin 610hp Cummins QSM11 engines. It is primarily intended for work in Western Port.

When Port Phillip Sea Pilots decided to commission the new launches it conducted a worldwide search before selecting a design from French naval architects Pantocarene, which the pilots were convinced was the most advanced of its kind in the world.

The new composite launches are fully self-righting, have a suspended wheelhouse for noise and vibration minimisation, and incorporate a ‘beak’ hull designed to improve comfort in head seas with very low slamming and vertical acceleration.

Hart Marine in Mornington (Victoria) was selected to build the vessels. Headed up by Mal Hart, the company has been operating since 1983 and is recognised both locally and overseas as a leading composite boatbuilder, particularly for ocean-racing yachts.

“As a Victorian company, we were proud to have the support of the Port Phillip Sea Pilots to take on this project,” said Hart. “We enjoyed the challenge of building the vessels and were pleased that the Port Phillip Sea pilots chose to keep the project within Australia.”

The Hart Marine composite construction uses vacuum bag resin infused technology, which is said to provide thermal and acoustic advantages (better insulation in the cabin), lower maintenance costs over the life cycle of the vessel compared with other materials, and a high standard of finish.

Construction of the new launches was overseen by Port Phillip Sea Pilots’ maintenance chief Chris Richards who has had 35 years with the sea pilots organisation.

He describes the design and construction of the new boats as “exceptional”. Naval architects Pantocarene have also endorsed Hart Marine’s build quality.

Hart Marine was able to enhance the design of the boats with additional engineering features such as five-bladed propellers to reduce both underwater noise and cavitation, and remote-mounted gearboxes to further reduce noise and vibration.

Daniel Gallagher headed up the project for Cummins.

“He was a huge asset to the whole project,” said Richards. Mal Hart agreed: “The Cummins boys do a great job… that’s what sets Cummins apart.”

The reduced noise is a key benefit of the new QSK19s. “They’re noticeably quieter than our earlier QSK19 engines,” Richards confirmed. “Noise is an important issue these days and we’ve been really conscious of getting the noise levels down.”

He also noted that the QSK19 engines that went into service in 2005 have been both more reliable and fuel efficient than the older mechanical KTA19. “The reliability of the QSK19s has been first class, and the fuel saving has been around 30lt/h,” he said.

The new pilot boats also have Cummins C Command Elite, which features colour, touchscreen instrument panels that display a wide range of data in text and graphics format to help the operators monitor and maximise vessel operation and performance.

Contracts keep coming for Incat Crowther
Sydney-based design firm Incat Crowther’s worldwide success has continued with a slew of new contracts signed in recent months including crewboats, ferries and a research vessel.

One contract involves the design a 20m monohull crewboat, which will be built by VeeCraft Marine in South Africa. The vessel is characterised by a large foredeck, which has 27m² of cargo space. The bow also features a passenger boarding area for transfers to offshore facilities. The main passenger cabin has seating for 25 passengers, and a bathroom. A rescue zone is situated over the large aft platform. Below decks, the vessel has four crew berths, a galley and mess and a bathroom.

The Nigerian-flagged vessel will be powered by a pair of 1000hp MAN 284 LE 413 main engines driving Hamilton waterjets, giving a loaded service speed of 25kts and a maximum speed in excess of 30kts.

The vessel brings to 10 the number of offshore energy service vessels under construction to Incat Crowther’s designs. Others include two 28m wavepiercing catamarans and three 17.5m catamarans — proof of the company’s design diversity.

Of course, the company is best known for its passenger catamarans, and another recent contract is for the design of a 24m ferry carrying 146 passengers. It will be operated by Real Journeys in the wilderness areas of New Zealand’s South Island. The vessel will be the fourth Incat Crowther vessel for the operator, following on from Fiordland Flyer, Patea Explorer and Luminosa. It will be built by Q-west Boatbuilders in Wanganui, NZ.

The vessel is designed with three main objectives. The first objective is to allow passengers to have a greater experience of the outside environment. Incat Crowther has implemented design features such as low window sills, large forward windows and a polycarbonate roof on the upper exterior deck. All windows are double glazed to minimise fogging, while the main deck windows also feature gutters above to keep them clear of rainwater.

The second objective is to create a vessel that has minimal impact on the environment in which it is operating. Significant steps were taken to reduce the wash generated by the vessel, as well as the fuel used in operation. All waste is stored onboard and discharged shore-side.

The third objective is to have the vessel be as reliable as possible and minimise maintenance. Due to the remote location of the operation, breakdowns can be disastrous. The main engines and other equipment were selected on the basis of availability of parts and are operated well below 100 per cent MCR. The vessel’s systems have been simplified and the structure has been over-designed to reduce fatigue.

A pair of MTU 12V 2000 main engines, each producing 1055hp, will deliver a 25kts service speed and a top speed of 30kts.

A new European contract is for a catamaran of similar size but quite different purpose. The 24m scientific research vessel marks the start of a new relationship between Incat Crowther and Estonian boatbuilder Baltic Workboats. The vessel will be operated by Lithuania’s Ministry of Environment in the near-shore areas of the Baltic Sea.

Its aft deck features lower platform access, hydraulic A-Frame, 5.7tm Guerra deck crane and moon pool. The main deck cabin has two work spaces — hydrological and chemical-biological laboratories. A crew mess, galley and laundry facilities are situated forward.

The upper deck wheelhouse has excellent all-round visibility and direct access to the foredeck, and the hulls accommodate 11 crew members in six cabins.

The vessel will be powered by a pair of Volvo Penta D9 main engines and have a service speed of 12kts. Range at 10kts will exceed 1000nm.

The company is also designing a 30m catamaran that will carry 100 passengers and nine vehicles for Turkish operator Bodrum Express.

Incat Crowther says the ferry has been designed in response to a growing trend towards efficiency at modest speed, and represents a new generation of ro-pax that is simple and cost-effective in both construction and operation.

The vessel will also feature Incat Crowther’s new generation hullform, as proven on Incat Crowther’s latest workboats and now filtering through into its ferry range. Twin Doosan 4V222TI main engines, each producing 647kW, were chosen for their low capital outlay and efficiency. The vessel will have a service speed of 23kts at 85 per cent MCR.

The design has been optimised to have commonality with future passenger-only vessels — identical in many areas, including machinery, ventilation, wheelhouse and electronics configuration and performance. This approach is intended to reap benefits in construction costs as well as running costs through reduced maintenance and inventory complexity.

In the USA, the company has scored a contract to design a 34m catamaran ferry for operation in Florida by Yankee Fleet. To be named Yankee Freedom III, the vessel will replace Yankee Freedom II designed by Incat Designs in 1999.

The vessel will feature an isolated superstructure, reducing the transmission of noise and vibration to the passenger spaces, as well as offering construction efficiency. The main deck features 142 seats and four wheelchair spaces, all with tables. There is a large bar and shop aft, with an additional serving counter. Aft of the bar are four toilets. There are also exterior seats on the aft main deck. The upper deck features 52 exterior seats. Inside, there are 56 seats, some with tables, and a small additional bar.

Yankee Freedom III will be powered by a pair of Caterpillar 3512C engines and have a service speed of 28kts.

Repower keeps Fisheries on patrol
Fisheries Victoria has completed the repower of one of its patrol boats, adding extra muscle and new technology while cutting the fuel bill.

Part of Victoria’s Department of Primary Industires, Fisheries Victoria decided to go with a pair of F250Ds from Yamaha’s new range of offshore V6 outboards to repower its seven-year-old Kevlacat. They replaced the original (non Yamaha) 225hp four-stroke outboards, despite those engines having only run 800 hours.

“Yamahas were chosen because of their lightweight construction and dimensions to suit our vessel, based upon the reliability and strong history we have experienced with the Yamaha brand,” said Fisheries Officer Mike Philip.

According to Yamaha, the new engines not only have the biggest capacity in their class (4.2lt), they are also the lightest. This has been made possible by using a plasma fusion process on the cylinder walls — a feature that is more commonly found in high-performance sports cars.
The engines also feature the very latest in electronics with full digital electronic controls and Yamaha’s new high-definition colour display.

Fully loaded with fuel, water and the crew, the catamaran displaces five tonnes, but the new outboards can push it to 46kts at full throttle (5900rpm). A cruise speed of 30kts is achieved at 4000rpm and the boat uses a total of 70lt/h under those conditions — a saving of some 12 per cent compared to the previous engines.

“Geelong Boating (Centre) did all the work on the Yamaha F250 repower,” said Philip. “We couldn’t be happier. The boat was off the water for only four days and the work performed has been done without flaw.”

Operating from the Queenscliff base, the boat covers a big stretch of coast from Cape Schanck to Lorne, policing both commercial and recreational fishing activities. The boat is also available to support the Victorian Water Police with search-and-rescue work.

While the Kevlacat is able to travel long distances and handle most sea conditions, Philip says it’s the boat’s inflatable that really gets the biggest workout.

“We do a lot of work in the intertidal zones. This involves our Yamaha-Zodiac being launched from the mothership and then getting in amongst the fishing fleets,” he explained.

Photos: The USN is buying more Mobilarm personal locator beacons; Chevron Australia will charter two anchor handling tug/supply vessels, Far Shogun and Far Saracen, to service Australian oil and gas programs; Port Phillip’s new pilot boats; Yankee Freedom III will operate in Florida; A 24m research cat for Lithuania; Real Journeys has ordered its fourth Incat Crowther ferry; Yamaha outboards figure prominently out the back of Fisheries Victoria’s Kevlacat patrol boat.