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Navy learning from Merchant professionals

Early this year the China Navigation Company (CNCo) agreed to host the Royal New Zealand Navy (Reserve) in their merchant vessels, for coastal passage between New Zealand ports.

A series of three voyages were achieved in March (MV Soochow – Captain Dmytro Arkhypov), May (MV Shaoshing- Fleet Commodore Peter van Uden) and June (MV Shantung – Captain Jeff Liew); in all, completing a very successful maritime trade industry learning experience.

All naval personnel were from HMNZS Ngapona (Commanding Officer LT CDR Gerard McGrath, RNZNVR) and were made up of a section of the Navy which specialises in maritime trade operations (MTO).

The purpose of the coastal attachments was to foster a better understanding of merchant shipping operations, including the demands on, and challenges faced by, merchant ship Masters and their crews; this will lead to an appreciation of how the Navy might better interact with, and assist, the merchant shipping world during times of conflict.

MTO is responsible for coordinating information for the guidance and protection of merchant shipping. This interface involves the provision of military cooperation, guidance, advice and assistance to merchant shipping.

New Zealand’s MTO capability is part of a global support network for merchant shipping. This network includes operations in the Arabian Gulf, Northern Europe, and the Pacific region, wherever New Zealand has seaborne trading links.

Commodore Peter van Uden summarised the attachment; in his perspective, “this was a worthwhile exercise. Having been in the thick of the UN and Coalition sanctions’ interdictions in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, with their resultant naval boardings, and remembering that ships had difficulties during the Falklands War with attendant RN/MN liaison problems, I can appreciate the benefits that can flow from this sort of exchange”.

All naval personnel reported how invaluable the sea riding was; Masters, Officers and Crew on the three “S” Class ships were extremely helpful towards ensuring the Navy’s MTO personnel met their aims and objectives.

Comparing the three voyages, it was pleasing to observe the high standards of health and safety culture that CNCo has, as well as sound operational procedures that were in place. Accordingly, the willingness of the three vessels crew ensured each naval person was treated well; they in turn enjoyed the hospitality and interaction of the crews, appreciating the assistance which was exemplary. Participating Naval personnel reported how the three different crews were welcoming and highly cooperative, which made for a smooth transition into the ships routine.

Instrumental towards the MTO’s merchant vessel insight and familiarisation training was Evan Dines (Port Agent – Quadrant Pacific Limited), also fortuitously a Lieutenant Commander, RNZNR. It was he who provided advice, gained approval from CNCo and Swire Shipping Group and assisted with planning. Evan’s links to the Navy paved the way for this highly successful programme. Special mention is also in order for The China Navigation Company Pte Ltd Fleet Manager (Chris Wilson) - without his approval, this valuable training opportunity may not have happened.

The Pacific Islands, New Zealand, North Asia shipping schedule proved the best for selecting short coastal passages which enabled minimal intervention into the commercial operation of the ships; including Quadrant Pacific Port Agents (Auckland, Tauranga and Timaru) who all were extremely supportive, displaying high levels of professionalism. Passages chosen varied in length but provided an excellent interaction between naval personnel and commercial shipping in order to build relationships, and learn from them.

In closing, this valuable MTO experience made possible by key personnel within CNCo Singapore, Swire Shipping Group and Quadrant Pacific Ltd cannot be understated. The generosity of management within both shipping companies is greatly appreciated. By allowing these attachments in the “S” Class ships has definitely brought the merchant service closer to the MTO branch of the Royal New Zealand Navy; in the world we face today, the practical element experienced is a positive move forward.

Captain Dmytro Arkhypov (MV Soochow) is presented with HMNZS NGAPONA Ships crest as a mark of appreciation for the assistance provided by his ship’s crew. Naval personnel are CPOMTO Nigel McFadyen and OMTO Jessica McShane.

Commodore Peter van Uden being presented with a HMNZS NGAPONA ships crest by the Officer In Charge of HMNZS Ngapona (Tauranga Unit) Lieutenant Garth Mathieson, RNZNVR in recognition of the support shown to the Royal New Zealand Navy by MV Shaoshing’s Master and crew.

ASEA Kruse experiencing and observing emergency and lifeboat drills in MV Shantung.

Captain Jeff Liew (MV Shantung), officers and crew after being presented with a HMNZS NGAPONA by Lieutenant Hamish Foster, RNZNR and ASEA Peter Kruse, showing their appreciation for their New Zealand coastal attachment from Auckland to Timaru.

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