Another defence equipment bungle

Australian taxpayers can expect to be billed $200 million to keep HMAS Success - the navy's "ship of shame" - at sea because Defence has neither maintained her properly or made provision for a replacement.

Defence has confirmed a "mid-life extension", to keep the 26-year-old oil tanker and refuelling and replenishment vessel operational after its use-by date, will cost at least $200 million.

This would be additional to the $35.8 million spent on the vessel since November 2010, the last time the ship was operational.

There is already confusion over when HMAS Success will reach the end of its life without a major refit. Navy provided two different dates; 2017 and 2018. Both conflict with information provided by a Defence source who wishes to remain anonymous.

"She [HMAS Success] never had a mid-life refit and her end of life is 2016, but there isn't a new ship on the horizon to replace her," the source said.

The original plan was to commission a replacement by 2016, but that hadn't happened. "The Defence Capability Plan presently says her replacement will enter service in 2021-2022."

That can only work if HMAS Success is kept operational long past her original retirement date.

"So how much will it cost to extend the life of HMAS Success until her replacement arrives you might ask? Would it be value for money? Should the government spend more money on an old ship or pay her off and buy a new one?" the source asked.

That option is worth considering. The British, at least partly cashed up with the $100 million Australia paid for the Largs Bay (now HMAS Choules), have reportedly done a deal with Daewoo for four "fleet oilers" at a reported cost of $150 million each.

"Why don't we buy in?" an industry figure said. "It's got to be cheaper [than patching up HMAS Success and then buying a replacement]."

Defence has been quick to say it has not asked the government for an extra $200 million to spend on HMAS Success just yet.

Already a household name for sex scandals and a record number of Defence inquiries, HMAS Success is now headed for a new round of ignominy.

Of the $35.8 million spent on HMAS Success since November 2010, $17.8 million was spent in Singapore to make it compliant with International Maritime Organisation Standards.

A further $13.8 million went on maintenance from June to November last year and a further $4.1 million is now being spent on work to return the ship to operational readiness by July or August.


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