The two “Balikpapan” class landing craft heavy (LCHs), donated by the Australian government to the Philippine Navy early this year, will be formally commissioned into service on July 23, in Australia.

The LCHs will be christened upon their arrival in the Philippine by last week July or early August. They will be joining the five other landing craft units in PN service.

The two ships will be named BRP Ivatan (AT-298) and BRP Batak (AT-299).

“The two LCHs will be named after indigenous tribes as we follow the PN policy in naming (landing craft) vessels. The Ivatan are from Batanes and the Batak are from Northern Palawan,” PN flag officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan said.

Last June 29, a group of PN personnel was dispatched to Cairns, Australia to act as the LCHs sailing and logistics crew.

The two donated LCHs are formerly named the HMAS Tarakan and HMAS Brunei in the Royal Australian Navy service.

The ships were decommissioned from Australian service at a ceremony in Cairns last Nov. 19, 2014.

Prior to donation, the ships were refurbished and upgraded to standards. The donation will include spare parts necessary for maintenance.

Australia, through the Royal Australian Navy, participated in relief efforts from the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) in 2013 and observed that the country’s lack of sealift capability was hampering rescue efforts.

The donation is the direct result of their observation.

The LCH is an extremely versatile vessel capable of moving large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment from larger ships to shore.

Even at a very shallow draft (two meters), the LCH can deliver personnel and equipment to areas otherwise unreachable, especially during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.

It is an all-welded twin-screw vessel, able to transship cargo and supplies from ships lying offshore to water terminals or across the beach.

Maximum cargo load is governed by the load-fuel balance and varies between 140 and 180 tons.

A typical load of 175 tons gives the LCHs a range of 1,300 nautical miles, increasing to 2,280 nautical miles for a load of 150 tons.

Up to five shipping containers with HADR supplies and equipment can also be embarked.

LCHs have a draft of two meters, length of 44.5 meters, beam of 10.1 meters and displacement of 364 tons.

It has a speed to 10 to 13 knots and a range of 3,000 nautical miles and a crew of 15.

The entire Balikpapan fleet comprises of 5 units, including the two incoming crafts. The Philippine Navy is studying the prospect of purchasing the remainder of the landing crafts, the former HMAS Wewak, Betano and its ship namesake Balikpapan, all of which were decommissioned in 2012.