• HMAS Adelaide sits alongside Nuku'alofa. (Defence)
    HMAS Adelaide sits alongside Nuku'alofa. (Defence)

With no information available to the contrary, it appears that HMAS Adelaide and 600 crew will be spending an 8th day alongside in Tonga after being stranded by a major electrical power failure while delivering humanitarian supplies following the 14 January volcanic eruption and tsunami.

The 27,000 tonne Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) arrived in Tonga on 26 January with 23 COVID cases reported on board and the same day completed a contactless unload of 88 tonnes of supplies onto Vanu Wharf in Nuku’alofa, according to a 31 January Defence press release.

This stated that the ship was awaiting further requests from the government of Tonga - notwithstanding an earlier statement by the country’s Health Minister, Saia Piukala, that the Adelaide would leave immediately after delivering the supplies. 

Meanwhile later the same day it was the ABC, not Defence, that disclosed that Adelaide had suffered a major electrical power outage and despite days of emergency work, was still docked and still experiencing problems.

Neither the ABC nor Defence said when the outage occurred, but given the ship’s inability to leave Tonga immediately after unloading, as required, presumably this was on 26 January. 

A subsequent Defence statement confirmed that Adelaide had experienced a power failure. Backup power had been activated, essential functions such as refrigeration and sanitation systems were up and running, food supplies had not been adversely affected and civilian specialists were on their way to Tonga to assess the affected systems.

As of late 2 February, no further information had become available from Defence on Adelaide’s status, nor on whether precautionary equipment checks were being undertaken on Adelaide’s sister ship, HMAS Canberra.

Both LHDs were sporadically either unavailable for service or subject to operating restrictions during 2017 due to irregularities within their azimuth propulsion pod systems.

These problems were later linked to the migration of oils across seals in the propulsion systems. 

Each ship is propelled by two Siemens Navantia 11-megawatt azimuth thrusters, each with an onboard electric motor driving 4.5 metre thrust propellors. The electricity is provided by a combined diesel and gas (CODAG) system.

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