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Navy welcomes plus-sized new arrival

Flagstaff Team

The ship was greeted by a welcoming flotilla and dockside navy haka

HMNZS Aotearoa, the Royal New Zealand Navy’s new and largest ship, docked for the first time at the Devonport Naval Base last Friday.

The fleet tanker was welcomed into the Waitemata Harbour by the navy vessel Manawanui, along with a flotilla of sailing boats and powerboats that flanked Aotearoa as she arrived.

Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft flew over the 173m Aotearoa and navy personnel performed a welcoming haka.

The Commanding Officer of the Aotearoa, Captain Simon Rooke, said, “It’s a massive day for us. We’ve got 65 crew members who are stoked and can‘t wait to get to sea and start operating our newest ship.”

Minister of Defence Ron Mark, who attended the welcome, said Aotearoa would extend the fleet’s range and endurance during operations “from Antarctica to the Equator and beyond”.

The ship took just under three years to build, in South Korea. The project, including an upgrade extension to the Calliope South Wharf at the Devonport Naval base, and cost $493 million.

Making a splash… HMNZS Aotearoa makes her first entry to the Waitemata

Rooke said the ship has been built as a polar-class to supply fuel to Antarctic missions. It is designed to supply other navy ships at sea for a sustained period of time. Aotearoa carries fuel and food as well as a Seasprite helicopter. She has 100 bunks for 65 crew plus additional personnel for search and rescue and humanitarian relief and support.

“Her primary job is to keep our military ships and allies’ ships at sea, with fuel and food supplies, and make sure that the navy has reach in the Pacific region,” said Rooke.

The Aotearoa will replace the 138m fleet tanker, Endeavour, which was decommissioned in December 2017 after more than 30 years of service. The new ship will be commissioned next month in Devonport and be fully operational later this year. New Plymouth will be its home port.

This article originally appeared in the 3 July 2020 edition of the Flagstaff. Read online here.

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