Canterbury man eager to serve on Navy’s biggest-ever ship

Christchurch man Shaun O’Halloran joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) wanting to contribute to something big and he is about to get that opportunity, serving on board the RNZN’s biggest-ever ship.

Sub-Lieutenant O’Halloran, who grew up in Christchurch and attended St Bede’s College, is part of the inaugural crew of Aotearoa, a 173-metre-long sustainment vessel that boasts state-of-the-art design and capability features.

Aotearoa completed her sea trials off South Korea recently and arrived in New Zealand last week, after a 16-day journey. She will be formally commissioned at the Devonport Naval Base in late July and Sub-Lieutenant O’Halloran can’t wait to get on board.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to be part of the commissioning crew,” he said. “It’s certainly a career highlight so far — I feel extremely privileged to be able to contribute towards bringing Aotearoa into operational service for the RNZN, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the New Zealand public.”

Sub-Lieutenant O’Halloran, who is a Warfare Officer, joined the RNZN in 2017 wanting an experience he couldn’t get in any other job and to contribute to something larger than himself.

“Visiting different places, constant career progression with no limitations, and the ability to navigate and drive a Navy ship from early in your career definitely sparked my interest,” he said.

His training included six months on a Maritime Warfare Operators Course with the Royal Australian Navy in Sydney and recently he completed his first paper towards a Postgraduate Diploma in International Security through Massey University.

Earlier roles were instructor on a Joint Officer Induction Course for new NZDF trainees at Base Woodbourne near Blenheim, and in Defence Recruiting in Wellington and Christchurch.

His current role while at sea entails taking responsibility for the ship on behalf of the Commanding Officer when on watch, which involves navigation, responding to emergencies on board and executing operations such as launching rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) or helicopters or joining a task group of other ships.

His deployments have included a resupply mission to Raoul Island in 2018 and fisheries inspections around New Zealand in 2018 and earlier this year.

“With the fisheries inspections my role was to work with the ship’s company and Ministry for Primary Industries staff to locate, intercept and board fishing vessels,” he said.

That meant manoeuvring the ship into position to conduct boarding operations, launching a RHIB to transport the inspection team, and keeping the ship in position until the boarding team has returned.

Among his duties when on shore is training personnel.

“That’s what makes a military carer so dynamic — one week you’re manoeuvring and navigating a Navy ship off the coast of the Chatham Islands, the next instructing initial training in snow-capped mountains in sunny Marlborough,” he said.

For the Commanding Officer of Aotearoa, Captain Simon Rooke, it’s all hands on deck as the ship gets nearer to being commissioned.

“I’m delighted with the calibre of officers and sailors we have and I know how proud they all are to be posted to Aotearoa,” Captain Rooke said. “There’s something very special about being a crew member of not only a brand new Navy ship but the biggest one we’ve ever had in our fleet.”

Aotearoa will assist the New Zealand Defence Force’s Southern Ocean monitoring. The ship’s enhanced “winterisation” capabilities, such as ice-strengthening, will allow it to undertake operations in Antarctica, including resupplying McMurdo Station and Scott Base.

Aotearoa has a world-first naval “Environship” design, which incorporates a new wave-piercing hull form that reduces resistance and lowers fuel consumption, while its combined diesel-electric and diesel propulsion plant has lower exhaust emissions than older vessels.



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