23 Mar 2010

Fault with Navy ship just teething problem - minister

7:09 pm on 23 March 2010

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says he is disappointed by an engine fault affecting the Navy's newest ship, but believes it is only a teething problem.

The 85-metre offshore patrol vessel Otago was undergoing sea trials near Melbourne, where it was manufactured, and was due to leave for New Zealand on Sunday.

However, a fault with one engine developed during sea testing.

It was initially thought the part needed to fix a coolant leak may have had to be found outside Australia, but Navy spokesperson Commander Phil Bradshaw says one has been located and was being sent to Melbourne on Tuesday.

The Otago is the sixth ship in the delayed $500 million Project Protector fleet.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp does not believe the fault is a major one. He believed it was a teething problem and "one of these things that seems to happen".

Mr Mapp has said previously that Project Protector has been bedevilled by delay and dispute.

Canterbury earlier problem

Manufacturer BAE Systems has agreed through mediation to pay the Crown nearly $85 million to fix defects on another New Zealand Navy ship, the multi-role vessel Canterbury.

The Navy has already officially accepted the Otago and it will be repaired under warranty.

However, a specialist defence lecturer says delays and faults in new defence acquisitions are not unique to New Zealand.

Victoria University senior fellow, Dr Lance Beath, says it is a pattern, globally, that new equipment can face two or three years of delays.

Dr Beath says the new ships are not cheap, but they form brand new capabilities that push the envelope.