With only two boats, the VIP Boat Squadron based at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney is a small but important part of the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet.
For more than 30 years the Squadron has provided escort services for officials and dignitaries as part of duties centred on Sydney Harbour.
Outgoing Boat Coxswain Chief Petty Officer Keith Schodel has seen a number of very Important people including monarchs, heads-of-state, high-ranking officers from many militaries and other distinguished guests during his time with the Squadron.
“We’ve hosted the Prince of Wales, the King of Tonga, the First Sea Lord, several Governors-General and the Ministers of Defence,” Chief Petty Officer Schodel said.
With a crew of three, the Admiral’s Barge was purpose-built for its ceremonial role in Brisbane and commissioned in 1993.
“I remember the logistics in 2011 to transfer the Admiral’s Barge to Canberra and crew it in service of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Lake Burley Griffin as part of her visit.”
The Squadron’s other boat, the Admiral Hudson, a Kingfisher 54, is used for transfers and official functions on Sydney Harbour. These events are highly formal in dress, behaviour and general protocol.
The ability of the VIP Boat Squadron to help forge relationships is useful in many ways as outlined by Commander Ben Hissink, Admiral’s Secretary at Fleet Command.
“The Admiral Hudson allows hosts including the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Force, Vice Chief of Defence Force, the three Service Chiefs and land, air and sea Commanders all to strengthen relationships with foreign forces and allow engagement opportunities with dignitaries from Australia and abroad,” Commander Hissink said.
“Because of its location, the Squadron can help leave a lasting impression for official visits with a combination of stunning Sydney Harbour scenery and fine dining that focuses on fresh Australian produce and high-end cooking techniques from skilled Navy crews.”
With more than 60 events, the last 12 months have been extremely busy for the VIP Boat Squadron, and it’s only going to pick up over the next year.