Friday 10 July 2015
In the first visit by a Royal Australian Navy vessel to Fiji in 8 years, and as part of its regional engagement, HMAS (Her Majesty’s Australian Ship) Leeuwin will be in Fiji from 10 July – 19 August to undertake activities with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. The HMAS Leeuwin will conduct seabed mapping operations with the Fiji Hydrographic Office in Fiji territorial waters.
This visit builds on talks between Fiji’s Minister for Defence and the Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force last December on the renewed maritime security partnership between Australia and Fiji. Strategic re-engagement is ongoing between the RFMF and the Australian Defence Force. A delegation headed by RFMF Chief of Staff, Captain Viliame Naupoto, returned to Fiji last month after a week of defence cooperation talks in Canberra.
The Republic of Fiji Military Forces, via the Fiji Naval Division, and the Royal Australian Navy will conduct two seabed mapping activities on board HMAS Leeuwin. They will also undergo combined training exercises in fighting a fire or flood in a ship, and broader defence activities.
The first survey operation will be conducted in the vicinity of Rotuma, as proposed by the Fiji Hydrographic Office and the Fijian Government’s Maritime Affairs Coordinating Committee. This will include mapping approaches to Rotuma Island’s wharf and surrounding waters to enable safe navigation of commercial vessels.
“The Australian Government is pleased to be able to work with the Fiji Navy on this important mapping exercise,” said Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Margaret Twomey. “Like Fiji, Australia also relies on the sea for fishing, commerce, tourism and other activities, so up-to-date maritime charts are essential for the safety of vessels and people at sea.”
The HMAS Leeuwin is one of two Leeuwin Class Hydrographic Survey Ships based in Cairns, Australia with a ship’s company of 65 crew led by Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard Mortimer of the Royal Australian Navy.
“HMAS Leeuwin is extremely fortunate to be able to visit Fiji, the first RAN ship to do so in eight years. My Ship’s Company are looking forward to strengthening the ties with an important South Pacific Navy as well as experiencing the delights of the Fijian Islands,” said Lieutenant Commander Mortimer. “The work we will do together will produce vital nautical charting information, but more importantly, it will create friendships.”
The ship is 71 metres in length and carries three fully equipped 9 metre Survey Motor Boats for surveying shallow waters. HMAS Leeuwin is also capable of carrying a helicopter for survey operations but will not have one during the Fiji deployment.