In the good (or bad) old days, ships were built from the keel up, with the frames rising from the keel, and the plating or planking secured over the frames. These days ships are built in modules, large blocks of steel with piping, wiring and coatings already in place. The blocks are then welded together and a new ship emerges. It is all highly complicated but extremely efficient, at least until there is a mistake. In the construction of the HMAS Hobart, the shipyards building the modules discovered that their blocks don’t fit together.
$8bn navy flagship founders after construction bungle
Australia’s largest defence project, the $8 billion plan to build the navy’s new air warfare destroyers, has had its first serious setback. A Melbourne shipyard has botched the construction of the central keel block of the first warship.
The Australian understands that the central keel block of the first AWD warship, HMAS Hobart, was built to inaccurate dimensions as a result of faulty welding and inadequate quality control at the Williamstown shipyards, operated by an AWD subcontractor, BAE Systems Australia.
One AWD source, who asked not to be named, said: “This is not a small problem – this is a major headache for us. This will have a ripple effect on the whole project because that hull block is critical, and if that block is delayed, then a raft of other things also get delayed.”
A statement from the AWD Alliance, incorporating BAE Systems’s response, said yesterday the distorted block had been “remedied by reworking” but said it was too early to say exactly what impact the problem would have on the overall AWD delivery schedule.
Sources have told The Australian that the project would be delayed by up to six months.
BAE Systems won the $300 million contract to build 36 of the 93 hull blocks for the three new AWDs last year amid much fanfare from the Victorian government, which said it would create hundreds of new jobs. BAE began work on the keel blocks early this year.
The keel blocks are the most complex and important parts of the AWD hulls. Comprising up to 2000 pipes as well as electrical systems, they provide the foundation for the ship’s gas turbine and diesel engine propulsion system. The AWD Alliance includes the government-owned Australian Submarine Project, the Defence Materiel Organisation and Raytheon Australia.