Australian 1980's CVE conversion proposal

PMN1

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In a story called 'The Last War' by Jan Nienmczyk

http://www.tboverse.us/HPCAFORUM/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=1914&st=0&sk=t&sd=a


He mentions a 1988 proposal to turn two flat steel product ships into CVE for the RAN, this never happened due to opposition from the CNS but does anyone have any drawings for this?

2 BHP Iron Duke class flat steel product carriers laid up late 1980s. After initial rejection by RAN CNS 1988 as offered by BHP for $36 million in tax credits, ordered purchased by government to maintain ASW helicopters at sea, 1991 at cost $72 million. Converted to operate up to six Seaking Mk50A ASW helicopters with dipping sonar, or like number utility helicopters. However, able to accommodate up to 10 Seaking in hangar deck. One acft lift. No ability to accommodate troops.


Mark Bailey mentions the proposal elsewhere

We tried the cheap-and-nasty approach in ‘82. BHP had two flat steel products carriers (Iron Monarch and iron Duke) laid up in Sydney. They would have made excellent and economical helicopter carriers, and their engines were civilian versions of the LM2500 naval gas turbine in the Perry’s (85% commonality IIRC). 8 Seaking (our A/S helo back in those days) could have been carried in their hangar, the converted cargo deck. Everyone said it was a good idea, and it cost nowt, because BHP wanted to gift them to the Commonwealth in return for a tax write-off. Admiral Mike Hudson said no, he did not want the flagship of the RAN to be a converted merchant ship. The troops did not nickname him ‘Mudguard’ for nothing (Mudguard = shiny on top, *** underneath)

MarkL
Canberra
 

Abraham Gubler

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The MVs Iron Duke and Iron Monarch were RO-RO vessels used by BHP to carry steel products. The proposal was for the RAN's nascent training and helicopter support ship (THSS) requirement to replace HMA Ships Jervis Bay and Tobruk. The RAN wanted a new build, milspec LPD type for the THSS and when they put it to Government in a cabinet submission in the early 1990s ended out with two ex-USN LSTs (later HMA Ships Kanimbla and Manoora). With the same level of modification as went into Kanimbla and Manoora (eg hospital, accommodations) the Iron Duke and Iron Monarch would have been much better ships without the corrosion problems of the ex LSTs.
 

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Rickshaw

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What was the level of compartmentalisation of the two BHP ships?

There were more than likely valid reasons such as the fear of using commercial hulls for what were essentially warships. It may have been a case of penny-wise, pound foolish. Despite alll the bad press that MANOORA and KANIMBLA have received, they were constructed as warship hulls and had superior damage control facilities to a commercial hull.
 

TomS

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The fate of Atlantic Conveyor would certainly have me very concerned about using a Ro-Ro type ship in a true warship role. The lack of transverse subdivision allowed fire and smoke to spread rapidly throughout the ship, and lack of longitudinal bulkheads would make flooding almost impossible to control.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Well where do I start... As an LST HMA Ships Kanimbla and Manoora are basically of the same internal design as any commercial RO-RO. The tank deck is not subdivided with water tight compartments. Nor are LSTs designed to survive considerable damage. Further the loss of Atlantic Conveyor was not simply a result of it being a commercial ship. The very naval standards HMS Sheffield was also lost after being hit by an Exocet missile. A big bang, lots of fires and the heavy seas of the South Atlantic are pretty terminal for any type of ship.

Both Iron Duke and Iron Monarch severed for some time as commercial ships, I think Iron Monarch may still be in service. They did suffer early hull stress which lead to a reduction of their top speed. Probably a strong reason why they were rejected by the RAN.
 

TinWing

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PMN1 said:
..... and their engines were civilian versions of the LM2500 naval gas turbine in the Perry’s (85% commonality IIRC).

I can't possibly imagine why anyone would have ordered gas turbine propulsion for this pair of ships? Was this some sort of make work project for an Australian shipyard? Is "flat steel" an especially time sensitive cargo?
 

Abraham Gubler

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TinWing said:
I can't possibly imagine why anyone would have ordered gas turbine propulsion for this pair of ships? Was this some sort of make work project for an Australian shipyard? Is "flat steel" an especially time sensitive cargo?

No such need for imagination, like all such things they thought it was a good idea at the time and for good reason. When built in 1973 the Irons Monarch and Duke were designed to take advantage of thermal recycling regeneration where the hot exhaust of the gas turbine is used to generate additional power. This enabled her to burn 82 tonnes of crude residue fuel per day to sustain a speed of over 20 knots while carrying 4,321 tonnes of payload. Which are pretty good figures for such a small sized ship.

These ships were designed to service a round trip where they would sail from Port Kembla (Wollongong, NSW) with finished steel products to Melbourne or Adelaide and then on to Whyalla, SA. There they would load the flat steel (straight from the refinery) and take it Melbourne or Sydney for finishing and then back to Port Kembla.

There is no exceptional time demand but because they were combining two steel products journeys with different destinations that didn’t easily match up with outward and inward bounds (steel from Port Kembla and from Whyalla) the speed advantage meant the ships would make up the non productive part of the journey in short time (best case Adelaide to Whyalla and Sydney to Port Kembla or worst case Melbourne to the steel producing towns).

The use of regeneration lead to rapid decay of the steel structure (ironic for such a steel serving ship) and they were converted to just plain initial turbine torque power production (90 tonnes for 17 knots). After both were laid up in the early 80s (when they were offered to the RAN) the Iron Monarch was returned to service running on two medium speed diesels. It now provides the a four day flat steel connection from Post Kembla to Westernport where the steel is finished.
 

Kokoro

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Just call me Ray said:
What eventually became the fate of these vessels?

As of this morning Iron Monarch is south of Melborne near Hastings. So one is still around.
this url might work:
http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/default.aspx?oldmmsi=503000059&zoom=10&olddate=12/8/2009%203:49:36%20AM
 

TinWing

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Abraham Gubler said:
TinWing said:
I can't possibly imagine why anyone would have ordered gas turbine propulsion for this pair of ships? Was this some sort of make work project for an Australian shipyard? Is "flat steel" an especially time sensitive cargo?

No such need for imagination, like all such things they thought it was a good idea at the time and for good reason. When built in 1973 the Irons Monarch and Duke were designed to take advantage of thermal recycling regeneration where the hot exhaust of the gas turbine is used to generate additional power. This enabled her to burn 82 tonnes of crude residue fuel per day to sustain a speed of over 20 knots while carrying 4,321 tonnes of payload. Which are pretty good figures for such a small sized ship.

These ships were designed to service a round trip where they would sail from Port Kembla (Wollongong, NSW) with finished steel products to Melbourne or Adelaide and then on to Whyalla, SA. There they would load the flat steel (straight from the refinery) and take it Melbourne or Sydney for finishing and then back to Port Kembla.

There is no exceptional time demand but because they were combining two steel products journeys with different destinations that didn’t easily match up with outward and inward bounds (steel from Port Kembla and from Whyalla) the speed advantage meant the ships would make up the non productive part of the journey in short time (best case Adelaide to Whyalla and Sydney to Port Kembla or worst case Melbourne to the steel producing towns).

The use of regeneration lead to rapid decay of the steel structure (ironic for such a steel serving ship) and they were converted to just plain initial turbine torque power production (90 tonnes for 17 knots). After both were laid up in the early 80s (when they were offered to the RAN) the Iron Monarch was returned to service running on two medium speed diesels. It now provides the a four day flat steel connection from Post Kembla to Westernport where the steel is finished.

Well that explains it.

Since these hulls were Australian built for Australian coastwise trade, they no doubt were manned by Australian merchant mariners, earning uneconomically high wages. It all comes down to the issue of "cabotage," similar to in the infamous "Jones Act" in the United States.

Given the obvious labor issues, I can assume that minimizing transit times reduced labor expenses, at least in theory. In addition, the high building costs of an Australian shipyard might have shifted the equation further in favor of gas turbine propulsion, since there wasn't a well developed marine diesel industry in Australia in any case.

Of course, I had very wrongly assumed that a commodity such as "flat steel" would have been imported from Japan even back in the 1970s or 80s, instead of being transported from one Australian port to another aboard an Australian produced vessel. When you think about it, international shipping is vastly cheaper in terms of labor costs, which explains why there are so few Australian (or American) flagged ships due to the cabotage rules. Of course, those rules also protect older hulls such as the Iron Merchant, since they can't be replaced with foreign built hulls and it isn't economic to build their replacements domestically.
 

Abraham Gubler

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TinWing said:
Since these hulls were Australian built for Australian coastwise trade, they no doubt were manned by Australian merchant mariners, earning uneconomically high wages. It all comes down to the issue of "cabotage," similar to in the infamous "Jones Act" in the United States

The salaries earned by Australian seafarers are NOT “uneconomic” they are just uncompetitive compared to a sailor from the third world. The same for merchant vessel registration. You can still run an international merchant with first world country crews and registrations and make a tidy profit. Of course with neither you can make even more money…

TinWing said:
Given the obvious labor issues, I can assume that minimizing transit times reduced labor expenses, at least in theory.

Yet at that time plenty of other Australian coastal merchants were built with medium speed diesels and slower transit times. Like I said before the higher speed was worth it to minimize unproductive time due to the disparity between the origins and destinations of the steel cargo.

TinWing said:
In addition, the high building costs of an Australian shipyard might have shifted the equation further in favor of gas turbine propulsion, since there wasn't a well developed marine diesel industry in Australia in any case.

Where do you get these opinions? Lots of marine diesels have been produced in Australian shipyards certainly a lot more than marine gas turbines. The only Australian marine gas turbine production is the building of GE’s LM2500 enclosures at ADI Bendigo that didn’t start until the 1990s.
 

Pioneer

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TomS said:
The fate of Atlantic Conveyor would certainly have me very concerned about using a Ro-Ro type ship in a true warship role. The lack of transverse subdivision allowed fire and smoke to spread rapidly throughout the ship, and lack of longitudinal bulkheads would make flooding almost impossible to control.
In my opinion the RAN's (and for that matter the West's) lack of real interest in arming/equipping such ships as Amphibious, Replenishment ships etc.., (be them purpose built or converted) adequately enough, with the fuzzy belief that they will be protected by escorts is far from reality!
One only has to see how due to money the RAN's ships have often been deployed into hostile areas equipped with improvised Army RBS-70 Point defence SAM's or even in some cases 'steeling from Peter to pay Paul', with removing the likes of Phalanx CIWS from one ship to another to compensate (crazy!!)

With the modularization of weapons systems today, and their ability to be installed so much easier and quicker I see no problem with converted merchant ships - so long as when they are going into harms way both the ship and its crew (and possibly the soldiers they are carry!) are given an adequate effort of self protection in the basic form of the likes of at least a Goalkeeper CIWS (or two!), Mk 36 Mod 1 decoy launchers for SRBOC, Nulka active missile decoy, the true and trusty 12.7mm M2 HMG, MANPAD SR SAM's and some manually operated 25mm cannons!
As for
The lack of transverse subdivision allowed fire and smoke to spread rapidly throughout the ship, and lack of longitudinal bulkheads would make flooding almost impossible to control.
- well that's the chance the admiral(s) or more so these days the politicians have to take when being tight asses in the first place and not providing purpose design and built vessels.
But then again its not likely to be the admiral sailing into harms way aboard such a ship!

Regards
Pioneer
 

TinWing

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Abraham Gubler said:
TinWing said:
Since these hulls were Australian built for Australian coastwise trade, they no doubt were manned by Australian merchant mariners, earning uneconomically high wages. It all comes down to the issue of "cabotage," similar to in the infamous "Jones Act" in the United States

The salaries earned by Australian seafarers are NOT “uneconomic” they are just uncompetitive compared to a sailor from the third world. The same for merchant vessel registration. You can still run an international merchant with first world country crews and registrations and make a tidy profit. Of course with neither you can make even more money…

The only way that you can make a "tidy profit" with "first world crews and registrations" is either through military charters, where the costs are passed along to the taxpayers, or through legal monopolies in "captive markets," where the high costs are passed along to the shippers, and in turn to the consumers.

You can run a line with elderly, manpower intensive hulls, as long as you can pass your labor costs along to the taxpayers and shippers. However, you can't replace those elderly hulls because of high domestic building costs, you can't expand your business - all you can do is continually raise shipping rates. In the end, a country with highly protectionist cabotage laws end up without a commercially viable shipbuilding industry and without a commercially viable merchant marine - all for the sake of protecting an ever declining number of jobs.

On the other hand, those few remaining domestically built hulls do tend to remain in service much longer than commercially viable internationally crewed vessels. This is precisely why the Iron Merchant is still in service, and why it was re-engined rather than being scrapped decades. The irony here is that cabotage laws don't typically deter navies from procuring foreign built hulls for conversion, an example being the current HMAS Sirius.
 

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