In support of Operation SOLANIA, HMAS Parramatta conducted a port visit to Honiara, Solomon Islands from 11-14 July, to assist in maritime surveillance of the South Pacific Region as coordinated through the Pacific Island Forum Agency.
On arrival, the ship was met by members of the High Commission, and Parramatta’s new Commanding Officer, Commander Andrew Willis.
Following a brief ceremony, and the handing over of the ‘weight,’ the outgoing Commanding Officer, Commander Simon Cannell, was piped ashore one last time, and cheered by ship’s company as he departed.
Commander Willis paid tribute to Commander Cannell’s leadership of Parramatta, saying “he always put the interest of the team and ship first.”
During the first day of the port visit, the ship’s medical team spent the afternoon providing first aid training to the Honiara Maritime Unit. The training covered Australian Resuscitation Council Guidelines and Petty Officer Claire Fellows said it was very well received by the local unit.
“It was great to be able to teach a group that were so receptive,” he said.
In the evening, Parramatta hosted an official reception with guests including The Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, the Australian High Commissioner and the British High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands. The evening was a big success culminating with a traditional naval Ceremonial Sunset, lead by Lieutenant Joel Marrison.
The following day brought a hive of activity for the crew of Parramatta as 60 personnel volunteered to help at Tuvaruhu Community School. At the school, ship’s company assisted teachers, students and aid workers in painting desks and class rooms, and assisted with cleaning up from the devastating floods that had torn through the area earlier in the year. The efforts of the ship’s company were greatly appreciated from the local community.
After lunch Parramatta’s soccer team had the chance to step up and take on the local soccer team, the Titans. The match was very close for the first 20 minutes before the Titans managed to score three quick goals to have the Navy side on the back foot. After the half time break Parramatta, took on a more attacking style, firing home two goals and constantly creating chances. The game finished with Parramatta going down 3-2. Both teams stayed on the pitch well after the match exchanging stories and having photos taken. Parramatta gave the local team a signed soccer ball as a memento of the match.
Commander Willis said it was fantastic to see the motivation and hard work members of ship’s company.
“They put in a lot of work to help out the local community following the devastating floods which occurred in the area in April this year. The feedback we have received from the High Commission about the work Parramatta has done has been second to none,” Commander Willis said.
Shortly after sailing, Parramatta held a memorial service above the location where HMAS Canberra (I), lost in World War Two now lies off the coast of the Solomon Islands. A brief history of the Battle of Savo Island was read by Lieutenant Matthew White detailing the short lived battle and remembering the 1100 plus men who lost their lives on the 9 August 1942.
“I’m proud and lucky to have the privilege of paying respects to those who lost their lives whilst serving on Canberra and being able to witness first hand the locations in which they fought,” Able Seaman Cameron Stewart said.
His Commanding Officer agreed.
“The ceremony provided members of ship’s company with the opportunity to reflect and remember the officers and sailors of HMAS Canberra (I), who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Commander Willis said.
Parramatta is conducting a four week patrol through the South West Pacific to conduct regional engagement and to support the policing the Economic Exclusive Zones of Pacific Island Countries, including operations under the Niue Treaty.
The aim of Operation SOLANIA is to detect and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activity.