Pandemic supplies new challenges

Resupplying a Navy ship with essential fuel and fresh produce during an overseas deployment takes significant planning at the best of times.

CAPTION: Leading Seaman Tayler Hawkins, left, and Able Seaman Katie Nattrass Russo conduct a stores muster on board HMAS Ballarat during the ship’s current regional presence deployment. Story by Lieutenant Gary McHugh. Photo by Leading Seaman Ernesto Sanchez.

The task is made more challenging during a pandemic.

While on her two-month regional deployment to South-East and north-east Asia, HMAS Ballarat’s resupply and port visits had to be conducted in a COVID-safe manner.

Ballarat’s maritime logistics officer Lieutenant Commander Shannelle McKellar said it was not business as usual, with contactless engagement the new normal.

“Everything has to be carried out in a COVID-19 safe manner, which requires us to go totally contactless,” Lieutenant Commander McKellar said.

“This means there’s a major difference in how we conduct port visits, resupply the ship – for example, everything we take on board has to be sprayed with disinfectant before it can be stored for future use.”

Lieutenant Commander McKellar said there were also changes to how the ship’s company interacted with the various parties involved in the extensive supply network.

“Normally on a deployment, the ship’s agent would be the same person, following the ship around from port to port to coordinate our logistics needs wherever we need,” she said.

“But with restrictions on international travel, we now liaise with different sub-contractors at each port, which makes it a little more challenging to build an effective working relationship.

“Similarly, on a no-contact deployment, we can no longer bring on board representatives from the local authorities or staff from the Australian Embassy – all this interaction has to be carried out either by phone or from the ship to the wharf.”

Ballarat currently is deployed on Operation Argos.






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