Navy decommissions two hydro survey ships

By on 30 September, 2021

Survey motor launches HMA Ships Paluma and Mermaid shown sailing into Cairns for the final time in mid-September 2021. Image by Petty Officer George Cheng, Department of Defence.

The Royal Australian Navy decommissioned it oldest vessels, the survey motor launches HMA Ships Paluma and Mermaid, at a ceremony at HMAS Cairns in late September.

For more than 30 years the ships had been used to collect the hydrographic data needed to produce products used by military, commercial and private vessels for safe navigation in Australian waters.

“Since Mermaid’s first hydrographic operation at Bee Reef on February 26, 1990, the ship has steamed nearly 420,000 nautical miles and conducted innumerable surveys,” said Commanding Officer Mermaid, Lieutenant Commander Christopher Voysey.

“Surveys aren’t the only function undertaken though. In February 2000, Mermaid and Paluma deployed to Bougainville Island in support of the peace monitoring group conducting Operation BEL ISI II ashore.

“Later in November that same year, the ships deployed to East Timor to support the United Nations transitional administration to East Timor operations.”

More recently, the ships supported the border patrol mission known as Operation Resolute.

As the older of the two vessels, Paluma had held the title of ‘First Lady of the Fleet’. This has now been passed on to HMAS Shepparton, the older of the two remaining Paluma-class survey motor launches (the other being HMAS Benalla).

Commanding Officer Paluma Lieutenant Commander Craig Hamilton said the decommissioning ceremony recognised the legacies the two ships leave behind.

“Our ships have served the Navy and region for many years and many proud personnel have served on board,” Lieutenant Commander Hamilton said.

“The ceremony today and the response we’ve had in the lead-up to it from previous crew members and those with an affiliation to the ships, shows the impactful role our vessels have had to so many.

“We now look forward to integrating into and helping to develop Navy’s incoming maritime mine countermeasures and military survey capability through SEA1905 Phase 1.”

The Royal Australian Navy is planning to introducte up to eight specialist vessels, which will have robotic, autonomous and artificial intelligence systems.

“While the future is very exciting and technology-driven, today was about our people past and present and these two robust vessels, which have served the Navy so well over the years,” Lieutenant Commander Voysey said.

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