Defence may have procured another second-hand offshore support vessel (OSV) from overseas ahead of the government's formal response to the DSR being made public. While Defence has not responded to ADM’s questions, evidence suggests the procurement of a 2013-vintage, 107m Norwegian-built OSV. If the sale is confirmed, it will be the second OSV bought off the shelf by Defence in two years, following the acquisition of ADV Reliant in 2022.
In December 2022 Solstad Offshore, a Norwegian offshore services company, announced the sale of CSV Normand Jarl to a customer “outside” of the offshore industry for approximately A$60 million. Days later, shipping consultancy firm Clarksons Renewables reported that the buyer was an entity of the Australian government. In response to questions from ADM, the Department of Home Affairs confirmed that neither it nor the Australian Border Force (ABF) had purchased the vessel.
“We can advise neither Home Affairs nor ABF were involved in the purchase of the vessel CSV Normand Jarl,” a Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said.
Solstad announced the sale of Normand Jarl on 12 December 2022. The following day, Defence awarded Teekay Shipping Australia a contract worth $100,000 for “due diligence inspections” of an unspecified vessel concluding in late February 2023. Normand Jarl subsequently arrived in Singapore and berthed near Australia’s icebreaker, Nuyina, in early January. Later that month, Teekay’s recruitment office in the Philippines offered four positions aboard the ship, commencing in early February.
On 15 February 2023, Solstad confirmed delivery of Normand Jarl to its still unspecified buyer. Subsequently, Normand Jarl was renamed ‘Guidance’ and transferred to the Australian commercial flag with its homeport listed as Sydney. Teekay Shipping Australia is listed as its manager by ship classification society DNV.
In response to questions about Guidance, a Teekay spokesperson told ADM that they were unable to comment on the company's work with Defence. Teekay currently provides crew and support services for ships of the national support squadron, including ADV Reliant, ADV Ocean Protector, MV Mercator, MV Sycamore and submarine rescue vessels Besant and Stoker. MV Mercator and MV Sycamore are both based in Sydney, Guidance's new homeport.
While the vessel is currently administered under Australia's civilian flag registration, Defence has been working to speed up the process by which ships are moved from the civilian registry into Defence hands. On 13 February Chief of Navy, RADM Mark Hammond, signed an MoU with AMSA to expedite the transfer of Australian-flagged commercial vessels to the Defence flag.
If Defence has procured the vessel, it’s not clear what requirement has driven the acquisition. One possibility is that it’s been bought to support the Royal Australian Navy's growing uncrewed vehicle portfolio. The Royal Navy recently purchased two similar vessels to operate as motherships for uncrewed systems and it’s possible that the DSR has recommended the acquisition of a similar type. The possible purchase could also be related to Sea 2400 Phase 1, previously profiled by ADM Senior Correspondent Julian Kerr.
It should be stressed that ADM cannot verify that the vessel has been bought by or for Defence. Despite repeated attempts, Defence is yet to acknowledge - let alone respond to - ADM's questions. Nevertheless, if Defence has bought Guidance, it offers an intriguing look into the DSR’s recommendations and government’s stance towards Australian industry.
DWT: 6,500 tonnes