Innovative training delivers future capability

Published on SBLT Huon Fairbairn (author), ABCIS Riley Smith (photographer)

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Ararat (P89)

Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Thomas Hiramatsu, right, drives HMAS Ararat from the port bridge wing, supervised by Executive Officer Lieutenant Iris Van Kampen, and with Lead Instructor Lieutenant Commander Alicia Runde, during the Small Ships Navigation Course at sea off the Kimberley coastline. (photo: )
Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Thomas Hiramatsu, right, drives HMAS Ararat from the port bridge wing, supervised by Executive Officer Lieutenant Iris Van Kampen, and with Lead Instructor Lieutenant Commander Alicia Runde, during the Small Ships Navigation Course at sea off the Kimberley coastline.

The global pandemic has certainly presented challenges and hardship for the Australian community to endure. However, it has also presented the Royal Australian Navy the opportunity to devise innovative approaches toward training delivery and generating future capability.

Nowhere was this more evident than through the remote delivery of Small Ships Navigation Course No. 67, which was recently conducted in Darwin. This is first time ever that this training has been delivered anywhere other than Sydney.

Ordinarily the Small Ships Navigation Course is delivered at the School of Navigation Warfare at HMAS Watson, on Sydney’s picturesque South Head.

Lead instructor for the course, Lieutenant Commander Alicia Runde spoke of the important milestone the course provides in the careers of the students involved. 

“In the Minor War Vessel community, many of our sailors and officers are required to multi-task in a variety of different roles that they would not normally perform elsewhere in the fleet.

“Performing the role as Officer of the Watch on a ship’s bridge and keeping the vessel navigationally safe is just one of these very important roles,” she said.

The Small Ships Navigation Course delivers the foundation skills and knowledge that prepares the students to gain their Limited Navigation Watchkeeping Certificates - as the basic qualification to stand bridge watches aboard minor warships in future postings and generating this capability for ships at sea.

The decision to remotely deliver the Small Ships Navigation Course in Darwin removed the need for mandatory quarantine and interstate travel.

The students completed six weeks of theory, generously delivered by local Navigators and Navigation Specialists from HMAS Coonawarra.

The theory module was then followed by two weeks of practical assessment at sea in HMAS Ararat

Commanding Officer of Ararat, Lieutenant Commander David Martinussen said the remote delivery of this training in Darwin was both practical and cost-conscious.

“The cost of flying a cohort of trainees to Sydney, with the additional expense of having to quarantine prior to the course, made this remote delivery a more practical option,” Lieutenant Commander Martinussen said.

“More importantly, this provided the Patrol Boat community the chance to generate its own future capability on the platform the students will eventually serve in.”

At sea in Ararat, the students stood supervised watches on the bridge by day and night as the ship operated near the Tiwi Island group to the North of Darwin, and the coastal fringes of the Kimberley Ranges.

In this setting the students were exposed to coastal navigation, engineering breakdown drills and operating the ship’s sea-boats.

Course student Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Jack Bellingham said the course was both challenging and enjoyable.

“It was one of the most practically focussed courses I’ve completed in my career to date,” he said.

“I am confident that it will prepare me for keeping watches on the bridge of my ship, which in itself is a unique and rewarding experience.”

As graduates of the Small Ships Navigation Course, all students now return to their Darwin-based Armidale Class Patrol Boats, ready to tackle the next milestone of their career - achieving their Limited Navigation Watchkeeping Certificates.