THE heavy lift ship MV Blue Marlin steamed through The Heads into Port Phillip on Wednesday morning carrying the newest vessel of the Royal Australian Navy.
The hull of LHD Canberra, the first of the navy’s two new amphibious ships, was built at the renowned naval shipyard in Ferrol in northern Spain by Navantia and launched in February 2011.
Canberra is a Landing Helicopter Dock ship and will be fitted out by BAE Systems at Williamstown shipyard before going into service in 2014. The hull of her twin, Adelaide, will arrive in Australia in 2014.
They are 230 metres long, 32 metres wide, have a maximum draught of 7.18 metres and replace the navy’s existing amphibious ships, which support land forces.
Canberra will be partially “unfastened” over about two days near Geelong on the western side of Port Phillip, floated off when Blue Marlin submerges over about 24 hours in 23 metres in the middle of the bay and then towed by three tugs to Williamstown, where shipping lanes will be closed until Canberra has docked.
Carrying Canberra 12,000 nautical miles around the Cape of Good Hope in 45 days was not the heaviest task for Blue Marlin but was a challenge to load and transport as the hull protrudes 55 metres at the aft of Blue Marlin. A new attachment system had to be created.
At full load, Canberra and Adelaide will each displace 27,851 tonnes, making them the largest ships to serve in the RAN.
Blue Marlin – the world’s largest semi-submersible vessel – can carry up to 76,000 tons, usually oil rigs, and was built in 2000 for Dockwise. It is 224 metres long and 63 metres wide. She will be superseded later this year by Vanguard, a bowless semi-submersible that will carry 110,000 tons.