Shortly after HMAS Canberra arrived in Port Vila, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau Ma’aukora received a tour of the ship.
CAPTION: The Prime Minister of Vanuatu Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau Ma’aukora, centre, signs the welcome book during a tour of HMAS Canberra. Story by Lieutenant Geoff Long. Photo by Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.
Canberra arrived on the afternoon of March 9, at the request of the Vanuatu Government, and will provide support to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-led whole-of-government response following Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.
Joining Canberra via an embarked Australian Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, the Vanuatu Prime Minister, members of his ministerial staff and Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu Heidi Bootle toured the ship with Commanding Officer Captain Jace Hutchison and Commander Land Forces Colonel Douglas Pashley.
Captain Hutchison said it was an honour to host Vanuatu’s Prime Minister on board Canberra.
“It’s really important that we’re able to receive the Prime Minister and his delegation to showcase our capabilities and what we can do in terms of humanitarian and disaster response,” Captain Hutchison said.
“It was also a fantastic opportunity for him to meet the ship’s company and embarked forces as they’re about to commence support operations for the Vanuatu Government.”
On the ship’s first day in port, Defence planners and engineers met with key members of the National Disaster Management Office, Vanuatu Mobile Force engineers and senior Vanuatu Police Force staff.
Colonel Pashley said it was important to meet with local leaders to understand the extent of the cyclone damage.
“We’re here to help and we will allocate our resources based on the Vanuatu Government’s intent and requests,” he said.
Canberra sailed from Sydney on March 5, with nearly 300 embarked force personnel, three Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters, over forty vehicles, small boats, landing craft and a range of humanitarian supplies and logistical support.
Defence personnel used the four-day transit to Vanuatu to conduct training and preparation activities ahead of their arrival.