HMAS Gascoyne has continued her South West Pacific deployment, sailing into Port Vila in Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is a burgeoning tourist destination with the majority of the country’s tourists coming from Australia by air or on the many cruise ships that make Port Vila a port of call.
After receiving a cultural background brief by the RAN Maritime Surveillance Advisor, many of the Ship’s company were able to proceed ashore to sample the tropical paradise, receiving a warm reception from locals.
During the visit, Gascoyne was privileged to receive and host the Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu, the Honourable Mr Edward Nipake Natapei for a Commanding Officer’s Luncheon. Accompanying the Prime Minister was the Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu, His Excellency Mr Jeremy Bruer, and several other local dignitaries.
This provided a good opportunity for Gascoyne’s Command to speak with government officials about the Australian-Vanuatuan relationship, common security initiatives, and the role of the Defence Cooperation Program in supporting the Vanuatu Police Maritime Wing through the Pacific Patrol Boat program.
Gascoyne’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Aaron Cox said the Ship’s Chefs and Steward put on a wonderful luncheon receiving a warm thank you from guests and the High Commissioner.
“The Deputy Prime Minister was most appreciative, and very interested in the capabilities of a mine hunter,” said Lieutenant Commander Cox.
“Vanuatu has had long ties with Australia in enhancing the Police Maritime Wing’s surveillance capability and Gascoyne is contributing to this effort whilst transiting the Vanuatuan exclusive economic zone.”
In between visiting local attractions, eleven members of Gascoyne’s Ship’s Company conducted a goodwill visit to Kawenu Primary School, where they regaled the schoolchildren with tales from the high seas, song and dance, culminating in a friendly game of soccer.
Crew members were very pleased to have the opportunity to speak with the children and teachers, and learned a few phrases, songs and some new cultural dance manoeuvres. Of particular note was the very positive reception of the female crew members, highlighting some of the cultural differences between Australia and Vanuatu.
After an enjoyable and extremely successful visit to Vanuatu, Gascoyne departed Port Vila with fond memories and positive experiences. The next port visit is Nuku’alofa in Tonga, with the Ship using the opportunity to conduct collective and individual training during passage.