- Gillett, Ross
- RAN operations, Ship design and development
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2022 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By Ross Gillett
Dodging showers, on Thursday, 21 July a baker’s dozen of Naval Historical Society members led by our president was invited to inspect the new Pacific Support Vessel (PSV) Reliant berthed at Fleet Base East. Our genial host and tour guide was the ship’s master, Captain Chris Stirling. The tour provided members with an excellent coverage of the vessel, from the elevated helicopter pad down to the main storage deck.
Reliant had arrived in Sydney on 4 July after completing a 13,150 nm delivery voyage from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and thence across the Pacific. Demonstrating some of the unique characteristics of the ship, this voyage was completed without refuelling.
The new PSV was built by Kleven Verft in Norway (Hull no. 379) and delivered to the St. John’s based Horizon Maritime on 20 July 2017. She initially supported oil and gas exploration off Nova Scotia from 2018, but after that work ended she was assigned to the North Sea operations. Reliant was acquired by the Commonwealth Government in February 2022 for $A88.4m. By late this year, the five-year-old ship will begin operating from the Port of Brisbane, where the nation holds a large stockpile of supplies and is able to deploy with a fast response time into the South Pacific region with a load of humanitarian aid and disaster relief stores.
After refitting in Las Palmas Reliant was brought to our shores by Teekay Shipping who have a long-term contract to provide operational support to this and a number of other Australian Defence Vessels such as the auxiliary vessel Ocean Protector, the offshore patrol vessel Ocean Shield (operated by Border Force), the training vessels Seahorse Mercator and Sycamore, and the submarine rescue vessels Besant and Stoker, plus a number of harbour support craft.
Reliant will be employed for up to 42 days at a time, and will operate with two civilian crews which will change at the same six-week timeframe. One RAN liaison officer will be attached to the ship. The complement includes a master and three deck officers, three engineers, one logistics, two catering, one bosun and eight integrated crew, plus up to two naval positions. There are three unions involved: one covering the deck officers, one the engineers and another the remainder of the crew. Most of the integrated positions are multi-skilled with crew covering both the traditional roles carried out by able seamen and stokers.
Where exactly Reliant will be berthed in Brisbane has yet to be announced, although in earlier years the Landing Ship Heavy HMAS Tobruk and several Balikpapan-class Landing Craft Heavy were homeported at HMAS Moreton in the upper Brisbane River. Reliant is also expected to ‘operate semi-permanently’ in the south-west Pacific, up to 300 days per year, to allow her to support resilience building and preparation activities before a disaster strikes, while also staying on station during and after the event to provide an important ongoing capability.
Reliant measures 102.8 metres long, displaces 5600-tonnes and offers onboard berthing for up to 60 personnel. The PSV’s aft deck offers 1060 square metres of cargo space, supported by a large 150-tonne crane. Although there are no cargo holds, very large storage tanks equal to 800 tonnes capacity are fitted. The main deck can accommodate up to 68 containers, with the ship expected to carry a standard outfit of HADR supplies, supported by a three-berth hospital. This same area can also be used for emergency accommodation for those passengers who are being transported to a larger ship or another port.
A hatch called a moon pool is sited on the rear deck, exactly in the centre of the ship, and was originally used for deploying two remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), equipment and parts from beneath the vessel during turbulent ocean conditions. Forward of the bridge, Reliant is fitted with a helipad, able to support medium-size helicopters.
The large active-heavy crane rises above the stern for work being performed at ocean depths of up to three kilometres. Other notable features of the ship as originally completed included a pair of high-speed rescue vessels, an emergency towing winch, firefighting equipment, a gym, laundry services, a hospital and an
industrial size galley. The diesel electric engines are environmentally friendly and fuel efficient.
For her new duties Reliant will embark two Navy 8.5 metre-long RHIBs and a small landing craft, possibly the same as carried on the main deck of HMAS Choules. The ship’s two original lifeboats remain as fitted. The RHIBs and landing craft will be loaded and off-loaded by the 150-tonne crane.
Flag: Australian Blue Ensign
Port of Registry: Brisbane
5204 gross registered tonnes
Length 102.8 m.
Beam 20.0 m.
Draught 6.0 m.
Cargo Deck Area 1060 m2
Accommodation for 60 persons
Crane 150 tonne
Fitted with stabilising tanks
Carries two Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats with space for small Landing Craft
Dynamic positioning – can remain within 10 cm of position
Main Engines 4 x 2250 ekW + 550 ekW = 9550 ekW
Main Propulsion 2 x 2200 kW azimuth props
Auxiliary Propulsion 1 x 880 kw bow azimuth
Bow thrusters 2 x 925 kW
Complement 21 including 1 x Naval Liaison Officer and 1 x Naval Medic
PSV Reliant will provide a welcome addition to Defence capabilities, and being positioned in Brisbane can readily respond to requests for maritime assistance along on the east coast and into the Pacific region. We shall watch her progress with interest and the integration between this growing Merchant Marine contingent and the RAN.
In future Reliant will carry the ship’s prefix ADV, for Australian Defence Vessel. The RAN’s two serving Cape-class and eight future E-Cape-class patrol boats are also known as ADVs.