New ship a 'game changer' for NZ Navy - Defence Minister

2019-06-07 03:05:56

The Prime Minister has commissioned a $100 million ship that's being described as a "game changer" for the Defence Force.

On Friday at Devonport Naval Base, Jacinda Ardern formally commissioned the HMNZS Manawanui and released a bottle of champagne to wet the bow.

The 85-metre diving support and hydrographic survey vessel was purchased second-hand from Norway.

It will be used for disaster relief, search and recovery and explosives disposal in the Pacific.

Ardern said the ship's predecessor, also called HMNZS Manawanui, had a meaningful history in the Pacific that included clearing unexploded ordnance from World War II.

"The impacts of these tasks on communities in New Zealand and across the Pacific is real and it is meaningful. For some it means being able to engage with the environment safely, and to journey with certainty," she said.

Ardern said she was honoured to be the new ship's "sponsor;" in tradition, a female civilian who bestows good luck on a new vessel.

Plans to replace the ageing HMNZS Resolution and HMNZS Manawanui with a single ship began under the previous Government, and the money was appropriated at the time.

However, a $148m blowout of the frigate upgrade budget meant Defence Minister Ron Mark had to reset his sights on a second-hand vessel, rather than a new build.

Defence officials reviewed 150 vessels before identifying the Norwegian-built MV Edda Fonn as suitable for conversion. The cost of the ship's purchase and modifications was just over $100m.

Mark described the vessel as a "highly capable ship".

"It will be a game changer domestically and for our South Pacific region, where it will operate frequently," the Defence Minister said.

"Its commissioning comes at a time when we have raised the priority for operating in the South Pacific to the same level as our own territory, commensurate with the coalition Government's Pacific reset."

New Zealand is seeking to maintain its influence in the Pacific as it becomes an increasingly contested strategic space.

Friday's ceremony was the first time in nine years a Royal New Zealand Navy ship has been commissioned.

Some of the ship's capabilities include a 100-tonne salvage crane, a remotely operated vehicle, and a contemporary dynamic positioning system that will make Navy divers more effective and versatile.

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