July 16, 2012: Desperate to cut costs, and already facing fewer days at sea, the Spanish Navy is leasing one of its supply ships (the 19,500 ton Cantabria) to Australia for ten months next year. The Spanish Navy will continue to pay the crew (180 sailors) but Australia will pick up all other expenses, including the costs of Cantabria steaming from Spain to Australia and back.
Cantabria is a two year old ship of modern design. It carries fuel (diesel and aviation), fresh water, other supplies for supported ships, as well as a ten bed medical and dental clinic. Called an AOR, these ships are basically tankers that also carry other supplies (food, water, spare parts) needed to keep ships at sea for long periods.
Cantabria is being sent south because the Spanish Navy has to cut costs (because of shrinking government budgets and a major recession) and Australia needs another supply ship for naval exercises next year. Australia is also seeking to buy a new supply ship and the Cantabria class is one of the contenders. This gives Australia an opportunity to check out the Spanish ship under realistic conditions.
Neither country would reveal what the deal would save Spain, and cost Australia, but operating a ship like this costs at least $500,000 a month (not counting crew pay). So it's going to cost Australia over $5 million and save the Spanish somewhat less (as Cantabria was only scheduled to be at sea 40 days next year if it stayed in Spain). Australia plans to work Cantabria much harder.