The Australian Government has agreed to procure offshore support vessel MSV Skandi Bergen for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare said in a joint statement.

The 6,500t new offshore support vessel will join the current fleet of RAN’s amphibious ships that includes HMAS Choules and HMAS Tobruk.

The vessel will bridge the defence capability gap to conduct humanitarian and disaster relief operations until the arrival of the two new large landing helicopter dock vessels (LHD) in mid-decade.

The LHD has a top speed of 20kn, a range of 6,000nm and can cruise in backward direction with full directional control at a speed of up to 8kn.

The flight deck of the LHDs have been configured to support simultaneous take off and landing operations and can carry medium sized aircraft such as the NHIndustries-built NRH 90 and Sikorsky-built Blackhawk.

The 105m-long and 21m-wide Skandi Bergen ship can operate in sub-Antarctic weather conditions and features more than 1000m of deck area, a helipad and can carry a crew of up to 100.

The commercial off-the-shelf vessel requires minimal modifications for use in transportation of troops and supplies while supporting humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

Skandi Bergen is expected to be operational with the navy in mid-2012 and will be operated under a civilian crewing arrangement.
The offshore support vessel has an estimated value of $130m and will provide surveillance, and detection of illegally operating vessels in Southern Ocean.

In order to strengthen the Navy’s amphibious fleet, the Government had purchased the RFALargs Bay from the UK in April 2011, Subsea Operations Vessel Windermere was leased to supplement amphibious capability and an additional ship will be purchased particularly for humanitarian and disaster relief situations.