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Navy Officers Onboard US Coastguard Cutter

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

New Zealand Navy Officers Onboard US Coastguard Cutter

Caption: Lieutenant Fiona Jamieson (front left) and Sub Lieutenant Darcy Topp (front right) on the bridge of USCG WALNUT. Photo credit - NZDF Official


The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) have recently started working together as part of a Pacific regional fisheries protection operation.

Two RNZN officers have joined the crew of the USCG vessel Walnut, a 225ft Buoy Tender/Cutter, in what will become an annual personnel exchange aimed to enhance cooperation between the USCG and the RNZN. Onboard are Navy Lieutenant Fiona Jamieson, Whangarei, and Sub Lieutenant Darcy Topp, Lower Hutt, who both joined the vessel in Honiara earlier this month.

Lieutenant Jamieson says, "The exchange is about strengthening relations and inter-operability between the USCG and RNZN as we both have a lot in common and in particular strong interest in the Pacific. The vessel is involved in a number of missions this deployment including; maintenance of Aids to Navigation, 65th Anniversary of the battle of Guadalcanal, Coral Reef Task Force conference in American Samoa, community work in Western Samoa, and Foreign Fisheries Agency support."

The involvement in the Pacific, and specifically in relation to fisheries patrols, is a great opportunity for the two Naval Officers as the RNZN introduces the new Patrol Fleet under Project Protector in 2007/2008. Sub Lieutenant Topp will be the Navigator on the first Off Shore Patrol Vessel, OTAGO, and Lieutenant Jamieson will be the Executive Officer (second in command) of the second Off Shore Patrol Vessel, WELLINGTON. The two new ships will be tasked to conduct maritime surveillance, in conjunction with maritime air patrol assets, to the limit of New Zealand's EEZ, in the South Pacific and in the Southern Ocean.

USCG Walnut deploys to American Samoa once per year to service Aids to Navigation. This year the trip included a number of other tasks including a visit to the Solomon Islands Guadalcanal for the 65th Anniversary of Guadalcanal. For the two NZ Naval Officers the event was, "Quite special to be involved in what is the ANZAC day equivalent for the Island and one of the major stages of the Pacific War with some impressive feats of heroism, notably a "coast guard crew member" who gave his life evacuating Marines from a battle with the Japanese", says Lieutenant Jamieson.

From the Solomon Islands, the vessel transited across to American Samoa visiting a few outer islands to conduct maintenance of shore based navigation aids and is now alongside in Pago Pago where the bulk of the Aids to Navigation are to take place. All the old buoys will be replaced and the ones needing repair taken to Hawaii for refurbishment. With the massive concrete buoys weighing up to12500 lbs, this is not an easy task.

Whilst in American Samoa, the NZ Naval Officers are supporting the Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) convention which protects the Coral Reefs from marine spills, blasting, bleaching, and poaching of turtles. Community assistance by way of building a school playground in Western Samoa is on the schedule prior to heading back out to sea.

Lieutenant Jamieson and Sub Lieutenant Topp are scheduled to return to New Zealand in early September.


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