HMVS Cerberus News

Bayside NOT Saving Cerberus!

Friends of the Cerberus' rebuttal of Bayside Council's article in the Oct/Nov issue of their quarterly Newsletter "Let's Talk Bayside".

"The City of Bayside’s October/November publication, Let’s Talk Bayside, states that Council intends to work with community groups with regard to HMVS Cerberus. The recent experience of Friends of the Cerberus Inc. is quite the opposite. Neither community group that had worked with Bayside since 2001, we and the National Trust, were informed about or invited to a meeting on the 7th of April 2017 to discuss a proposal to fill Cerberus with concrete. Bayside has done nothing to consult with relevant community groups regarding their concrete “solution” and has done everything to sideline them.

At the April 7 secret meeting a plan to take control of the heritage grant, obtained by us and held on our behalf by the National Trust, was discussed. From here on it was full speed ahead with the appalling plan to fill Cerberus with 4,000 tonnes of concrete. Only token consideration was given to our far superior proposal for supporting the massive gun turrets with structural polyurethane. Spurious reasons were given by both Bayside and Heritage Victoria for rejecting the use of polyurethane. It is hard to imagine how polyurethane could catch fire as it would be under water. Although suitable for use with drinking water, it was claimed that polyurethane presented an environmental risk. Although much cheaper than concrete and within the available funds, polyurethane was incomprehensibly rejected on the basis of cost. The claim that polyurethane “has not been used on shipwrecks or similar contexts” is also wrong as its use in the wrecked vessels USS Frank Knox, the bulk carrier Sidney E Smith, the barge Lumberjack and suction cutter barges in NSW clearly demonstrate. As the main factor likely to cause Cerberus to collapse is the lack of support for the gun turrets, structural polyurethane under these with greatly reduce if not eliminate this risk. That Bayside’s “investigation” of the use of polyurethane was not genuine is demonstrated by information that we provided not being passed on to their maritime archaeologist writing their permit application.

This appalling project has no heritage benefits at all and does nothing to save the Cerberus. More than doubling the weight of Cerberus will cause it to settle even further into the metres deep sand on which it currently sits. Although Bayside was advised by its own officers that 4,000 tonnes of concrete will not provide enough structural support to allow the four 18 ton guns to be returned to Cerberus, this important information was strangely missing from their permit application. Lastly, and against heritage best practice procedures, filling Cerberus with concrete is not reversible.

The last time that we are aware of this discredited practice (saving vessels by filling them with concrete) being used was in 1934. The civil war vessel, the Bayou St John, just four years older than Cerberus and built of the same material was partly filled with concrete. In the words of the museum that undertook the project, this “misguided attempt to retain the vessel’s overall structure” was so disastrous that, at great cost, the concrete was removed in 1999-2000. Removal was only possible as the Bayou St John is much smaller than Cerberus and was on land, not in five metres of water. Bayside’s claim that 4,000 tonnes of concrete could be removed from Cerberus is only believable if one accepts that over $100million is likely to become available for this purpose and that a vessel weighing 6,000 tonnes could be lifted onto land. Clearly concrete in Cerberus is forever.

The heritage grant that we obtained and that the National Trust holds on our behalf should be used to save the Cerberus and not for any other counterproductive non heritage purpose. Fortunately injecting structural polyurethane under the gun turrets is affordable, has heritage benefits and is reversible. Should future generations have the means to conserve Cerberus, high pressure hoses could remove the polyurethane. Supporting the gun turrets and part of the central superstructure would allow the four guns to be returned to Cerberus. The polyurethane would not increase the weight of Cerberus and would actually slightly decrease its weight and would therefore not cause any further settling.

Friends of the Cerberus hopes that no further funding is provided to Bayside by any organisations for this appalling project that should never have received a permit, has no heritage merit and is detrimental to the long term preservation of Cerberus. Hopefully Bayside will realise that their approach is simply wrong, is best described as heritage vandalism and that they will not waste any more of their ratepayer’s funds on this discredited and unsound approach."

John Rogers
Fleet Engineer (Victorian Navy)
Website, research & President
Friends of the Cerberus Inc.

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