Defence Minister Ron Mark has scored another success at Cabinet, winning approval to buy a new hydrographic and dive ship for the Royal New Zealand Navy. An 85-metre Norwegian-built multi-role offshore support vessel, the MV Edda Fonn, will replace HMNZS Resolution and HMNZS Manawanui.
The two vessels were decommissioned from the RNZN in 2012 and 2018 respectively, following several decades of service.
The $103m budget covers purchase, modifications and introduction into service. This has been funded through an existing appropriation.
Edda Fonn will be outfitted with the dive and hydrographic systems required by the Defence Force, before being delivered to Devonport Naval Base in May 2019.
Mark reckons Edda Fonn will be a great addition to the Navy. It will meet the government’s needs and be in service three years earlier than a newly built ship. And it will ensure the current capability gaps for diving and hydrography are filled as quickly as possible, with a proven, well-tested platform.
Navy specialist divers and hydrographers provide vital services to NZ, the Pacific, and our partners, he says. In recent years this has included undertaking underwater search and rescue with the NZ Police, surveying the seabed following the Kaikoura earthquake, or removing unexploded historical ordnance in the Pacific islands.
Defence officials identified the Edda Fonn vessel, owned and operated by Norwegian company Østensjø Rederi, as the most suitable option from an initial list of over 150 offshore and subsea support vessels. Mark says they subjected the Edda Fonn to considerable scrutiny ahead of purchase.
The government has been assured by independent experts it is in excellent condition, and will handle well in the operations the Defence Force require.
The modern design and systems of the dive and hydrographic vessel will provide improved capacity, speed, safety, and capability over the previous vessels. Some of these new and enhanced capabilities include a 100t salvage crane, a remotely operated vehicle and a contemporary dynamic positioning system, which will allow the Navy’s specialist divers to achieve greater levels of effectiveness and safety, in a greater range of conditions.
The vessel generally operates in the North Sea, and is under lease until the end of 2018, following which the modification process will begin.
Once delivered, final modifications will be undertaken in NZ. It is expected that New Zealand industry will be involved in this part of the project.
The ship is expected to be in service with the Navy by November 2019.
UPDATE: National’s Defence spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, is less enthused. He says Ron Mark and his NZ First colleagues are doing something they criticised in opposition and are making compromise purchases of defence assets that weren’t built to do the jobs expected of them.
The 85 metre Norwegian vessel Edda Fonn will come to the RNZN already 15 years old, Mitchell said. It is a survey and light construction ship, not the dive, hydrographic and mine clearance vessel approved for purchase in 2016. And the Government will need to retrofit it at an as-yet unspecified further cost to taxpayers on top of the $103m purchase price. He called on Mark to explain how much this process will cost, and whether all the specifications in the business case approved in 2016 will be fitted to the Edda Fonn.