With final contractor sea trials now completed, plans are well underway for the majority of NUSHIP Canberra’s ship’s company to move down to the ship, which is currently berthed at Williamstown, Victoria.
Two-hundred out of the 380 strong Canberra team will move from Sydney to Williamstown on a RAAF KC-30 in the coming weeks, as momentum builds for the ship to be handed over to Navy.
Canberra’s Commanding Officer, Captain Jonathan Sadleir, said that the next three months will mark an end and a beginning.
“The coming three months mark the completion of a significant project milestone in terms of delivering the first Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) into Navy, but will also mark the beginning of a new platform in our fleet that will shift and grow the Australian Defence Force’s capability to a completely new level,” Captain Sadleir said.
“I sense a huge shift in the ship's company this month as we make final preparations to go to Williamstown and embark in the ship.
“I think the team is really starting to absorb what it means to be a part the ship’s company that is bringing one of the largest and most complex acquisitions ever bought by the Australian Defence Force into our Navy,” he said.
There’s already more than 100 Canberra personnel down at the ship, involved in a range of work including compartment and systems inspections.
“With over 1100 compartments in the ship, the handing over of compartments has to be a graduated process over time and this is well underway to meet the ship’s handover schedule,” Captain Sadleir said.
The ship is berthed at BAE Systems dockyard at Williamstown alongside sister ship Adelaide. Canberra has just completed two weeks at sea conducting her final contractor sea trials off the east Australian coast and in Jervis Bay.
One focus for Canberra is certifying Duty Watch teams so that they can be responsible for the ship in harbour. This is the first step in a series of milestones for the ship’s company to achieve as they bring Canberra into the Fleet.
“Duty Watch certification will see us starting to bring the rest of the Fleet with us on the learning journey the ship’s company has been travelling for the last 18 months,” Captain Sadleir said.
“We look forward to working with Fleet and moving forward together as we stand the first LHD Duty Watch teams up.
“Apart from Duty Watch certification, we will also be storing the ship – this is a huge evolution that requires careful planning and a team focus,” he said.
Canberra will also conduct a period of ‘fast cruising’ before leaving Williamstown. This process tests the ship’s watch and station bill. The ship’s company will be onboard and will carry out scenarios as if at sea – including evolutions like leaving harbour, a man overboard, or a mechanical breakdown - all done while being berthed alongside the wharf.
Until this point, the ship’s company has been predominately based out of Sydney, where the ship will soon be home-ported. The ship is scheduled to move from Williamstown to Fleet Base East in Sydney in November where the Commissioning will take place on 28 November.
“I’m already so proud of what has been achieved to this point. The next few months until Christmas hold the biggest challenges yet and the work done by the ship's company so far provides me great confidence as we embark on this period in history,” Captain Sadleir said.
Canberra’s Leading Seaman Combat Systems Operator, Aumau Falepau, said she is excited about what is about to unfold.
“I’m very excited. The whole process of being part of bringing the first Landing Helicopter Dock into the Fleet has made people feel really valued. No matter what rank or what job you have everyone is learning, and the contribution of everyone is so important,” Leading Seaman Felapau said.
“There is a huge sense of anticipation amongst the ship’s company - people are just so keen to get on with the workload ahead.
“People are already imagining how they will set up their mess decks and work stations.
“The periods I’ve spent onboard so far have been very valuable – it’s definitely going to be a leg work out every day!” she said.
Canberra will be able to conduct amphibious operations and land a force of over 1,000 personnel by helicopter and water craft, along with all their weapons, ammunition, vehicles and stores. The LHDs will also be capable of conducting large-scale humanitarian and disaster relief missions.