The defense has spent $93 million to acquire a used 5,204-ton offshore support vessel currently at anchor in the Canary Islands, replacing the “big-hulled” naval vessel that then-Defense Secretary Christopher Pyne said was it would be built in Western Australia in 2018.
While Senate Estimates in October 2021 were told plans for local construction had been dropped in favor of an overseas purchase, details of the February acquisition were first revealed in Senate Estimates on April 6. As of April 20, there was no statement from the defense.
According to CASG First Assistant Ships Sheryl Lutz, procurement confidentiality issues had meant the former operators, Canadian company Horizon Maritime, had not told the crew where they were going next until a maintenance availability activity was completed was.
Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan gave estimates on the five-year-old Norwegian-built ship, formerly known as horizon starwas renamed the Australian Defense Vessel (ADV). Reliant and would normally be based in Brisbane due to its proximity to the Pacific operating area it would support. Maintenance work would be carried out as needed in and around Brisbane, Cairns and Darwin depending on the task at hand.
adv Reliant is 103 meters long and can accommodate 60 people. Her aft deck offers 1060 square feet of cargo space and features a 150 ton offshore crane and moon basin, emergency towing winch and firefighting facilities. A helipad is attached in front of the bridge.
In contrast to the two Canberra-class landing helicopter docks and the Landing Ship Dock HMAS Choles normally used for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions, ADV Reliant expected to operate semi-permanently in the Southwest Pacific.
This allows the ship to help build resilience before a disaster strikes, while remaining on station during and after the event to provide a first response capability.
Brent Clark, CEO of the Australian Industry and Defense Network (AIDN), called the offshore acquisition “incredibly disappointing”.
“If the Department of Defense or the Government had been able to contract directly and look at how they would source this ship in Australia, we would probably be very close to having this ship in the water today,” he commented.