On The Record: Chief of Navy's letter to News Limited regarding Patrol Boats article

16 August 2012
Armidale Class Patrol Boats
Armidale Class Patrol Boats

The article titled ‘Navy 'time bomb' patrol boats too busy for repairs' (Herald Sun 16 August) is inaccurate and misrepresents a range of issues relating to the Armidale Class Patrol Boats and causes unwarranted concern for the men and women who serve on the front line of the border protection mission and importantly causes unnecessary concern for their families.

I absolutely reject the central tenet of the argument that operations are being prioritised over maintenance. Earlier this year I initiated a review into the Armidale Class following a drop in boat availability. As a result, Navy in conjunction with the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Defence Maritime Services (the prime maintenance contractor for the Armidale Class) implemented a maintenance remediation program. This has been reported in the public domain several times.

A key feature of the remediation program is increased maintenance time for the Armidales to ensure class wide defects were resolved and maintenance backlogs were reduced. This remediation program is being conducted against the backdrop of a period of very high operational intensity.

The safety of Navy personnel is one of my most important responsibilities. Navy does not and will not take short cuts with safety or with maintenance.

A separate inquiry by Major General Greg Melick is being conducted into aspects of an incident in HMAS Maitland where sailors were exposed to hydrogen sulphide gas in 2006. Two sailors were tragically injured in the incident, one of them seriously. General Melick is yet to finalise his report and he has not presented it to me. During his verbal updates to me he has not indicated to me any concerns with the continued operation of the Armidale Class.

I have full confidence in the way that the Armidale Class capability is being managed. There is the right focus on the operational requirement being balanced by the need to ensure that maintenance is being done as it should so that we have a mission capable and seaworthy class of patrol boats. The facts simply don’t back up the headline.

I note that the journalist did not attempt to check facts or verify the claims made in today’s article with Navy. Navy is always ready to provide clarification and context so the public is properly informed.

VADM Ray Griggs, AO, CSC , RAN Chief of Navy