The hull of the first of the Royal Australian Navy’s two new amphibious ships was launched with a bottle of Canberra regional sparkling wine at Navantia’s Ferrol shipyard in northern Spain on 17 February. The future HMAS Canberra will be transferred to Williamstown, Victoria next year for fitting out prior to entering service in 2014. The second, Adelaide, will follow a year later. The Landing Helicopter Docks will become the navy’s largest ever ships. Both will be based at Garden Island in Sydney.

Their introduction cannot come soon enough, with Australia’s Defence Minister admitting that the navy’s current amphibious fleet is unseaworthy. The situation has been attributed to the age of the ships, combined with a systematic lack of general maintenance. The neglect is so serious that lives were deemed at risk if the ships had remained in service.

Described as a ‘rust bucket’, HMAS Manoora is to be decommissioned with her sistership, Kanimbla, requiring an 18-month docking period for extensive repairs. HMAS Tobruk also remains out of action.

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