What will be the role of the Navy’s new multi-role vessel, the HMNZS Canterbury, which is being commissioned today?
The Canterbury is the first of seven new ships being commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Navy over the next year. That will give an unprecedented boost to the navy’s operational capabilities. The principal role of the is that of an amphibious sealift vessel, and it will succeed in that, whereas National’s efforts with the , the “”, failed completely. It is able to deploy 250 troops, 57 light armoured and operational vehicles, stores, and equipment in military and peacekeeping operations. But it also provides enormous capability in the areas of disaster relief and humanitarian support if and when needed in the Pacific, in South-east Asia, and, for that matter, in and around New Zealand.
What special capabilities does the Canterbury have in terms of deployment and disaster relief?
I think its special capabilities come into play in areas where there is no port access. It carries two 23-metre landing craft that can carry from ship directly to shore. In areas—for example, in the Pacific—where there is a reef, it has the capability in its hangars for four NH90 helicopters and a Seasprite helicopter. An NH90, for example, can pick up a truck off the deck of a boat and deposit it on the land. Obviously, those capabilities would have been incredibly valuable in the situation that pertained in post-tsunami Aceh, and in disaster relief following periodic hurricanes around the Pacific. At the other end of the Pacific, with an ice-strengthened hull the Canterbury will provide greatly enhanced capability for patrolling the Southern Ocean.
What will be the role of the other six vessels that will be commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Navy over the next year?
The other six ships consist of two 85 metre - long offshore patrol vessels and four 55 metre - long inshore patrol vessels. Their role will be in support of national security tasks, particularly in conducting multi-agency operations. That will include, for example, border patrol, working with the Customs Service and the police; control over our exclusive economic zone, working closely with the Ministry of Fisheries; counterterrorism operations; and search and rescue. There is no doubt that the boost given to the Royal New Zealand Navy by the addition of these seven ships is the biggest enhancement of its capabilities in the history of the Royal New Zealand Navy.