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Training with Kiwis bears fruit for HMS Tamar

Tamar departs New Zealand
15 March 2024
Patrol ship HMS Tamar geared up for an intensive period safeguarding vital fishing stocks in the South Pacific through training in New Zealand.

Making use of their hosts – both personnel and ships – the crew of the Portsmouth-based vessel made use of the waters of the Hairaki Gulf, just off Auckland on the North Island, to get acquainted with the Royal New Zealand Navy’s deployable boarding team.

That team is integral to Tamar’s next mission, in Fiji, so getting used to each other’s navy’s ways of working – similar given their heritage, but not identical – was crucial.

The customs launch Swan V and the multi-purpose HMNZS Canterbury – the ‘Swiss pocket knife’ of the Kiwi Navy – served as ‘vessels of interest’ for search teams to first board, then scour for ‘illegal’ fishing hauls.

Tamar is about to work with authorities in Fiji, conducting joint patrols of the waters of and around the island chain, helping the Commonwealth nation build up their capacity for and knowledge of board and search operations to help curb illegal fishing.

Fishing counts for around one tenth of Fiji’s exports, while illegal activities not only deprive the island of immediate income, but can also upset the delicate ecological balance of the South Pacific… and future prosperity.

The same waters also allowed a specialist training team from the UK to fly out and assess Tamar.

With the ship operating thousands of miles from her home country now for more than two years, and with her crew rotating regularly to sustain her Asia-Pacific mission, an assurance team from the UK drops in sporadically to put sailors through their paces – as they do for Royal Navy vessels in home waters with Fleet Operational Standards and Training.

“It is a bit different from doing our sea training in the South Coast Exercise areas,” said Lieutenant Justine Lambert, Tamar’s correspondence officer.

“North Island and the Gulf of Hauraki are stunning. The welcome and assistance we have had from the Royal New Zealand Navy has been amazing. The traditional Pōwhiri welcome is an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.”

The welcome and assistance we have had from the Royal New Zealand Navy has been amazing. The traditional Pōwhiri welcome is an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime

Lieutenant Justine Lambert

Indeed Team Tamar say New Zealanders proved, once again, first-rate hosts throughout their visit, from the superb facilities at Devonport naval base and the training establishment HMNZS Philomel.

Gunnery officer Lieutenant Ben Blackmore said: “We have been really well hosted by our Kiwi friends. After the training we managed to get out and about for the weekend. We got to see Hobbiton from the Lord of the Rings, so good – I am a big fan.”

Commander Tom Gell, Tamar’s Commanding Officer, added: “Working with our close partner navy, the RNZN, is like working with colleagues.

“The training in the Hauraki Gulf with the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Deployable Boarding Team and Maritime Training Group has been outstanding.

“It has also been fantastic to see the Royal Navy’s FOST organisation and the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Maritime Training Group come together to deliver world class training.

“Tamar and her ship’s company have really benefitted. The welcome and support we have received from our New Zealand brothers and sisters has been awesome. The partnership between our two navies continues to flourish.”

While in Auckland Commander Gell also joined veterans of Operation Grapple – and other British nuclear tests in the Pacific 60-70 years ago – as they received medals issued by the UK Government in recognition of test veterans’ service.

They were invited into the Naval Museum in Devonport for the formal presentation of the decorations in the presence of British High Commissioner Iona Thomas, New Zealand’s Associate Minister for Defence and Veterans, Chris Penk, and the Deputy Chief of the RNZN, Commodore Andrew Brown.

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