Paluma assumes First Lady mantle

Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author)

Location(s): HMAS Cairns, QLD

Topic(s): HMAS Paluma (A01)

Ship’s company of the new ‘First Lady of the Fleet’, HMAS Paluma. (photo: )
Ship’s company of the new ‘First Lady of the Fleet’, HMAS Paluma.

HMAS Paluma has been formally recognised as the ‘First Lady of the Fleet’, assuming the title of longest serving ship in the Royal Australian Navy.

Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead handed a perpetual trophy to Paluma’s ship’s company at her homeport in Cairns.

Paluma became the First Lady of the Fleet following the decommissioning of HMAS Success after 33 years of service.

Paluma was commissioned on 27 February 1989 and has sailed 421,000 nautical miles over the past 30 years, primarily charting the coastal waters to Australia’s north and most recently deploying to Papua New Guinea where she conducted enhanced regional engagement. 

Lieutenant Commander Ian McKellar, Paluma’s Commanding Officer, said his crew were proud to accept the title.

“We’ve been working hard this year, supporting Navy, collecting military survey data used recently in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE, as well as engaging with our regional partners in Papua New Guinea, so to be able to pause to accept the First Lady of the Fleet title was a great feeling.

“She isn’t the biggest ship in the Fleet, but Paluma has a proud history of service, contributing to the Australian Hydrographic Office’s national nautical charting programme and improving safe navigation for all mariners,” Lieutenant Commander McKellar said.

In accordance with tradition, Seaman Boatswain’s Mate Bradley Forrester was presented the perpetual trophy as the ship’s youngest member.

“To be the youngest person on board the oldest ship in the fleet on my first sea posting, and receive the perpetual trophy on behalf of Paluma is something I will never forget,” Seaman Forrester said.

Paluma and her sister ships Mermaid, Benalla and Shepparton are 36 metre long catamarans.

They were the first of four Survey Motor Launches built for Navy. They were constructed in Adelaide and are fitted with advanced sonars to scan the seafloor.

All four vessels are based in Cairns and often deploy in pairs.