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Australia opens revamped Port of Townsville facilities

  |   Oct. 24, 2013 at 3:01 AM
CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Australia's Ministry of Defense has opened an $85 million revamp of the Quayside Terminal and Wharf 10 at the Port of Townsville facility that will accommodate the navy's newest Canberra-class ships.

The upgrade has been designed to expand Australia's military capabilities and the growing cruise ship market, Minister for Defense David Johnston said.

"The upgrade will enhance the capability to support the navy's landing helicopter dock [ships] and the capacity to provide access for other visiting Royal Australian Navy and foreign warships," he said.

"This marks an important milestone for defense in achieving an amphibious capability for our new landing helicopter docks and for the local economy in Townsville."

The city, with a population of nearly 200,000, is home to the Australian army's Amphibious Readiness Element.

Townsville -- on the northeast coast of Queensland and near the central section of the Great Barrier Reef -- was home to more than 50,000 U.S. and Australian troops and air crew when the city became the launching point for battles in the southwest Pacific during World War II.

The Ministry of Defense contributed $30 million toward the upgrade and extension of Berth 10 in cooperation with the Queensland state government, Townsville City Council and the Port of Townsville.

Defense also contributed $5.3 million to lease and develop an area within the Townsville port precinct for vehicles, equipment and personnel in support of operations.

The upgrade includes construction of six berths, reclamation of around 250 acres and the building of a new outer harbor.

Deepening and other minor modifications to the approach channels also has been done.

Port expansion work was done partly to accommodate the Amphibious Readiness Element's new Canberra-class landing helicopter dock ships.

The first of the two LHD vessels, the Canberra, is scheduled to come into service in April and the the Adelaide will be commissioned in 2015.

Navantia is building the hulls for the 755-foot LHD vessels under a joint project with BAE Systems Australia.

Around 80 percent of hull construction for both LHD ships is being done at Navantia's Fene-Ferrol shipyard in Spain.

BAE is integrating the superstructure, hull, combat systems and communications systems at its facilities in Australia and is developing training programs for the LHD personnel.

The training will rely heavily on simulation and virtual scenarios, including avatars, to lower training costs, BAE Systems Australia said.

Each 27,000 ton LHD can carry a combined armed battlegroup of more than 1,000 personnel, 100 armored vehicles and 12 helicopters.

In December 2011, Australia decommissioned the last of its amphibious landing platforms, the HMAS Kanimbla -- formerly the USS Saginaw -- and later commissioned its newest amphibious ship, the British-built HMAS Choules.

The 525-foot Kanimbla was built for the U.S. Navy by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. in San Diego in 1970.

The first international military vessel to visit the redeveloped Townsville terminal is the USS Chosin, which arrived earlier this week.

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser Chosin is on its way home to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from the International Fleet Review in Sydney.

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