Australian Navy ships in Vanuatu for IPE engagement

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Sarah West (author and photographer), ABCSO Rye Huckel (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Toowoomba (F156), HMAS Success (OR 304), Indo-Pacific Endeavour

HMAS Toowoomba is led to Lapetasi Wharf, Port Vila, Vanuatu, by a local pilot boat during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018.  (photo: LEUT Sarah West)
HMAS Toowoomba is led to Lapetasi Wharf, Port Vila, Vanuatu, by a local pilot boat during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018.

Two Royal Australian Navy ships from Joint Task Group 661.1 have arrived in Vanuatu to conduct the first port visit of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018 (IPE18) program.

IPE18 is an Australian Defence Force Joint Task Group deployment to the South Pacific, designed to enhance the strong and positive defence partnerships the ADF shares with its regional counterparts, through meaningful engagement, dialogue and training activities.

On Wednesday, HMAS Success completed officer of the watch manoeuvres with the Vanuatu Police Force vessel RVS Tokuro before the Pacific Patrol Boat led the Australian replenishment ship into Port Vila.

Success Officer of the Watch, Lieutenant Alex Quintal, had the honour of being part of the bridge team on Tokuro for the evolutions.

“The Commanding Officer of Tokuro was kind enough to invite me to be part of his bridge team, which I absolutely loved,” Lieutenant Quintal said.

“Working with the Vanuatu Police Force Maritime Wing officers was a lot of fun, and while there are a lot of commonalities to how we operate on the bridge, it was the things that we do differently that made the experience really valuable and gave me an opportunity to enhance my seamanship skills and better understand how to operate with Tokuro in the future.”

“To top it off, I got to help lead my ship into the beautiful city of Port Vila, which was certainly a highlight of my career so far,” Lieutenant Quintal said.

HMAS Toowoomba arrived in Port Vila shortly after Success, berthing outboard of the ‘battle tanker’ at the Lapetasi Wharf.

The ship’s companies and embarked 2RAR attachment will spend the three-day visit participating in community outreach and engagement projects and training with the Vanuatu Police Force’s Maritime Wing and Mobile Force.

The visiting Australian sailors and soldiers will help repaint the Vila Central Hospital, facilitate a women’s leadership forum and conduct ship tours for schools and community groups.

Weapons Electrical sailors and Marine Technicians from the two ships will also assist the Vanuatu Police Force Maritime Wing with maintenance work on Tukoro

Commanding Officer of HMAS Toowoomba, Commander Stu Watters said the ship’s companies understood the importance of their mission in Vanuatu.

“Indo-Pacific Endeavour has fast become one of the most important activities the Australian Defence Force conducts in the Indo-Pacific region,” Commander Watters said.

Toowoomba participated in IPE last year, and we’re honoured that we’re again involved in visiting an important part of our region.”

“Maintaining the strong relationships and interoperability we share with our partners in the Vanuatu Police Force is absolutely critical to our ability to effectively and efficiently respond together when natural disasters occur in this region.”

“What we achieve during visits of this nature, in terms of relationship building and enhancing interoperability, always serves us ten-fold in times of crisis.”

“These benefits were most recently demonstrated last year, when HMAS Choules helped the Vanuatu Government deliver water, food and temporary shelters to communities evacuated from Ambae Island,” Commander Watters said.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Success, Commander Grant Zilko said his ship would deliver more aid stores after completing her visit to Port Vila.

“We have been tasked to call into Luganville on the northern island of Espiritu Santo after we leave Port Vila, to deliver more aid stores, which we hope will help make life a little bit easier for the people who are unable to live on their land because of the volcano on Ambae,” Commander Zilko said.

“The men and women of my ship’s company feel very proud to have been tasked with this important job and to have the opportunity to provide genuine assistance to our regional neighbours when they really need us.”

“After all, being good neighbours is ultimately what IPE is all about,” Commander Zilko said.

After dropping the aid stores to Luganville, Success will proceed to Samoa for her second IPE18 port visit, while Toowoomba will set sail for Hawaii to take on stores in preparation for her participation in Exercise RIMPAC. The rest of the IPE Task Group will also participate in RIMPAC, which starts at the end of June. 

IPE Image gallery: