A five-member team of Australian and New Zealand Maritime Trade Operations (MTO) personnel provided a vital link to the commercial shipping industry during Kakadu 2018.
Four of the MTO members were embedded within Darwin Port to brief merchant ships on a regular basis on Kakadu movements. The team also provided support to the Kakadu Exercise Control centre headquarters located at RAAF Darwin.
MTO Team One Operations Officer Lieutenant Timothy Martin said the commercial ships welcomed the briefings, as it allowed them to conduct trade with a minimum of interruption. For Exercise Kakadu 2018, it allowed the exercise to proceed without interference from a wide array of merchant traffic that routinely transits and operates within the North Australian Exercise Area.
“Commercial maritime shipping through the Port of Darwin is typically high-value trade such as liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas exports, so there is a strong commercial incentive to ensure the trade proceeds unhindered,” LEUT Martin said.
“Our team has been averaging three to four briefings per day throughout Exercise Kakadu. We will talk to the master of the ship so that we know their intended routes and movement scheduling, and we can also provide notices and alerts around the clock.”
The merchant ships briefed have included livestock carriers, offshore supply vessels, tankers, and container vessels. Briefings have also been conducted to reach smaller vessels, such as NT Barges, a Darwin-based coastal barge operator, and two Australian Border Force Cutter crews.
MTO personnel are predominantly Reservist officers with strong ties to the commercial maritime industry. The majority of the Royal Australian Navy Reservists are currently working in the commercial sector but can be called on when required for a liaison role, particularly around major exercises.
Royal New Zealand Navy MTO crew also contributed to the effort. RNZN Sub Lieutenant Scott Clemens said it was easy for both countries to work together as they shared the same procedures.
“The Kakadu exercise is a great opportunity for New Zealand MTO because we don’t often get to operate during an exercise of this scale. We also regularly host our Australian MTO counterparts,” SBLT Clemens remarked.
In addition to the daily briefings with merchant ships, the MTO team worked pre-exercise with the Australian Hydrographic Office for the publication of a Notice to Mariners as well as with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority for an associated maritime safety information broadcast for northern Australia.