As a young boy, Nicholas Clark watched ships go past his
Legana home as they travelled up and down the Tamar River. “I came from a
trades-based family and was always involved in building, repairing and making
things, and tinkering with small boats,” he recalled.
Not many years later the Australian Maritime College alumnus is the Senior Naval Architect at ASC Shipbuilding and looking forward to his next role in the $90 billion National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise – in particular, the construction of nine Hunter class antisubmarine frigates from 2020.
At present, the 32-year-old is overseeing numerous aspects of new Hobart class guided missile destroyers, named Hobart, Brisbane and Sydney respectively.
The 146m, 6,400-tonne destroyers are tasked to provide air defence for accompanying ships, in addition to land forces and infrastructure in coastal areas.
I’m responsible for weight management, launches, dockings, inclines, management of the loading conditions at the wharf, sea trials support, and SME advice for in-service support
The third ship of the Hobart Nicholas Clark class is NUSHIP Sydney (V), due for delivery early this year.
“Right now, I’m preparing to incline Sydney when she returns from trials and writing a docking report from when we docked her in July,” he said.
He was also involved in the sea trials of the sister ships HMAS Hobart and HMAS Brisbane.
Being a naval shipyard architect is a unique role that Nic relishes: “I’ve enjoyed all the different opportunities, tasks and responsibilities that have come along in the last eight years,” he said.
“It’s a hugely challenging program to be part of, that unless you live it, it is hard to understand. But working with so many skilled people who pull together to build these complex ships is probably the most satisfying part of the job.”
Naval architecture was not Nic’s original choice. It was a generic engineering course at the University of Tasmania that he applied to enrol.
“I never received confirmation that I had been accepted, so I went to the AMC front desk and spotted a course pamphlet for naval architecture, which listed the subjects for all four years.
“At a glance, I thought the subjects sounded interesting, so I signed up on the spot.”
His experiences on the training vessel Bluefin were both enjoyable and critical to his future.
“I did two five-day voyages up the northeast coast with Giles (Thomas), Paul (Furness), Irene (Penesis) and my fellow naval architecture mates,” he said.
It was a great way to get practical experience. The Bluefin is remarkable because it is an AMC facility that no other university in Australia has
he forming of friendships with lecturers and students who later became part of a professional network was also an advantage.
“I met several lifelong friends at AMC. It’s a close-knit group, and several of our career paths are converging in Adelaide right now,” he said.
“I’ve come across many past students of AMC in the seafaring and commercial shipping industries, including our sea trials civilian crew.” Lessons and theory learned at AMC have served him well. “Paul Furness’s hydrostatics notes live on my desk and were the basis for the launching, in-water management and seatrials management calculations for the Hobart class,” he said.
He used lessons learned at AMC facilities for the Hobart’s first-of-class inclining.
After graduation, Nic studied a Master of Philosophy under the supervision of Professor Jonathan Binns. It was from there that his career in shipbuilding started after being taken on at ASC Shipbuilding (now a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia) as a weight-control engineer working for the principal naval architect in engineering.
“I originally applied for a graduate program position but was offered a direct-entry role after an interview in Adelaide,” he said.
“It was a good initial role for a naval architect because weight and centre of gravity can make or break a ship.”
He was able to seize opportunities across the shipyard as they came up because of the broadness of his degree at AMC.
“I was able to put fundamental theory into practice,” he said.
Nic said an AMC course is a good option for school-leavers because career prospects are bright for naval architects and marine engineers. “Given how much work is happening right now and will continue to increase in the future for all the naval programs coming online, we will need every naval architect and marine engineer that we can get,” he said.
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