Survey Motor Launches, HMA Ships Benalla and Shepparton, arrived in Papua New Guinea on Thursday with the task of conducting survey operations in the vicinity of Long Reef, in order to provide alternate routes for shipping through the area.
Hydrographic Survey Ship, HMAS Leeuwin (HS Red Crew), had been working in the area for the previous five weeks: surveying, building strong relationships with the local villages and establishing the vital tidal infrastructure required to allow Benalla and Shepparton to commence survey operations.
The ships met in the morning haze where the Coral Sea rises up into Long Reef, with Leeuwin steaming out to meet the Survey Motor Launches and placing them in formation for Officer of the Watch manoeuvres.
After a series of manoeuvres the ships exercised Replenishment at Sea (RAS) approaches and a formation anchorage off Wari Island to take advantage of this valuable 'three ships in-company' time.
Once the ships were at anchor, personnel from Benalla and Shepparton reported onboard Leeuwin for a Commanding Officers' luncheon, survey handover and regional brief. The handover was formalised when the three Commanding Officers went ashore on Wari Island to meet with Councillor Lassono Philip and inform the local ward of the handover from Leeuwin to Benalla and Shepparton.
The visit also provided the opportunity to provide some supplies to the drought affected island and strengthen the relationship between our two island nations.
Councillor Philip welcomed and thanked the crews.
"We are very happy to have you here," he said.
Upon returning to their ships, Benalla and Shepparton weighed anchor together to commence survey operations through Long Reef, leaving Leeuwin readying herself to return to Cairns.
This is Benalla and Shepparton's second visit to Papua New Guinea this year, after conducting survey operations in Oro Bay during March and April.