Monday, February 26, 2024

Navy’s largest ship to visit Solomons

The largest ship in the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) fleet will visit Solomon Islands on Friday, the last stop on a six-month deployment engaging with regional partners through the Pacific and Asia.

Commanding Officer of HMNZS Aotearoa, Commander Dave Barr said the officers and crew on the 173-metre maritime sustainment vessel were very much looking forward to the stopover.

“New Zealand and Solomon Islands have a long-standing partnership, and it is a privilege to be welcomed to Honiara,” Commander Barr said.

The ship will host officials and guests on board and share some Kiwi hospitality, to give thanks for allowing the ship to visit and break up the long journey home, he said.

The NZDF currently has several deployed personnel working as part of the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force, which is led by the Solomon Islands Police.

The NZDF also has representatives in Honiara working at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency on operations to detect and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities, and regularly sends ships and aircraft to help monitor for IUU fishing in the Pacific region.

The visit to the Solomon Islands will be the last of many regional engagements on the lengthy Indo-Pacific deployment.

After participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise off Hawaii in August, HMNZS Aotearoa made diplomatic port visits to Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea while conducting a number of Replenishments at Sea with Royal Australian Navy, and United States Navy and Coast Guard vessels.

Aotearoa then joined 40 ships and submarines from 13 other regional navies, along with dozens of aircraft and helicopters, in Japan for an International Fleet Review celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, held in Tokyo Bay and Sagami Bay.

“It’s not until you see a gathering of like-minded nations like this that you truly get a sense of just how connected and committed our allies and partners are,” Commander Barr said.

“By regularly conducting regional and international defence engagements such as this, we improve inter-operability and enhance our strategic relationships which contributes to peace and security in the region.”

Commander Barr also said the last 12 months had been a big year for the ship and crew.

“We’ve achieved a lot in 2022. HMNZS Aotearoa may be designated a tanker, but we’re more than that and have proven the capability of the ship in a humanitarian disaster when we deployed to Tonga at the start of the year. We’ve made our maiden resupply voyage to Antarctica – the first RNZN tanker in 50 years to do so. We performed at RIMPAC and we’ve conducted a hugely successful tour, engaging with our regional partners in the Pacific and Asia. I’m incredibly proud of the ship and every one of the crew that I serve alongside.’’

The ship will spend a day in Solomon Islands before sailing for New Zealand.

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