WELLINGTON, New Zealand — One or two of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s four Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPVs) will be out of action because of crewing problems, officials said.
Television’s One News reported the pending shortage, although Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman gave a slightly different perspective of the IPVs (in service for less than five years) over the next 12 to 18 months.
“One of the four vessels will be on reduced activity because of a reallocation of staff and another will undergo maintenance, leaving only two of the vessels, which are used in border security, fully operational,” he said.
Coleman told One News there would be two boats doing “the job we need. But at the moment, we just haven’t got the people available to do the crewing on the third boat, because they will be ... taking annual leave [and] taking the opportunity to get some continuing education.”
A shortage of personnel is nothing new for the Navy, which has been struggling to man its ships since at least 2008 and matters have not improved, Navy Chief Rear Adm. Tony Parr told Defense News in February.
“We know we need around 2,000-2,200 people to run the Navy optimally, in terms of outputs, but we are actually capped at just short of 2,000 … so achieving balance here is a massive challenge for us,” he said.
Also challenging, for a variety of technical and human reasons, is providing operational helicopters for the Navy from the fleet of five Kaman SH-2G Seasprite purchased in 2001.
Coleman has confirmed that negotiations are underway with Kaman to acquire up to 11 SH-2G Super Seasprites. The aircraft were originally sold to the Royal Australian Navy only to be returned to the manufacturer after chronic integration problems prevented them from becoming operational.
In principle, the New Zealand Navy would benefit from replacing the existing five Seasprites with a larger, more modern fleet, but such a move would exacerbate existing challenges in maintaining and operating maritime helicopters.
To quote the 2011 Annual Report on the New Zealand Defence Force: “The combination of low crew numbers and the paucity of aircraft availability have made it impossible to maintain three [Seasprites] ready for embarkation. The … ability to train and sustain has been significantly impacted to a level that the unit can only currently support a single flight with a limited surge capacity.”
About 200 million New Zealand dollars ($155.9 million) is potentially available for acquiring the replacement Seasprites, which are also operated by Egypt and Poland.