Millions of miles of ocean have been under surveillance by the Royal New Zealand Navy in the past six months, and the Commanding Officer of HMNZS OTAGO is proud of his ship and crew’s contribution.
“In six months, OTAGO has travelled 15,000 nautical miles, the equivalent of seven circumnavigations of New Zealand. We have conducted surveillance of around 12 million square kilometres of water, all part of New Zealand’s maritime responsibility,” says 32 year old Lieutenant Commander (LTCDR) Robert McCaw.
LTCDR McCaw assumed command of HMNZS OTAGO on 12 September 2012. Almost six months to the day, he berthed his ship at Devonport Naval Base on 7 March 2013, chalking up the mileage after a patrol period focused on Southern waters.
“In the past six months, OTAGO has conducted multiple fisheries patrols and conservation tasks as well as transporting a myriad of scientific research staff to greater scientific discoveries, including over 90 species of seaweed on one Sub-Antarctic island alone. The ship has also conducted two Search and Rescue operations.
“OTAGO has operated across our entire spectrum of operations; within a week we moved from supporting Department of Conservation, to embarking special forces onboard for training.”
The highlight of his command to date has been making it to Antarctic waters. HMNZS OTAGO conducted one patrol during the summer ice season, and confirmed there were no unlicensed vessels operating in New Zealand’s Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) region.
“It was a challenge, dealing with the sea and weather conditions,” says LTCDR McCaw. “However it was really rewarding to interact with the vessels operating in our region.
“We found some infringements, but we also saw crews making immediate repairs to rectify these based on our boardings.”
“After a lot of training, preparation, and hard work, it was great to do a proper operation down there, and get some tangible results.”
The Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) primary role is surveillance and patrol of New Zealand’s maritime interests, and they regularly support a range of government agencies.
Naval Today Staff, March 15, 2013; Image: New Zealand Navy