Two decades of service for survey ships Leeuwin and Melville

June 22, 2020 – On 27 May, HMA Ships Leeuwin and Melville quietly stepped out of their teen years by celebrating their 20th birthdays alongside HMAS Cairns.

While social distancing requirements meant the anniversary had to be more subdued, both crews still felt honoured to be part of this milestone.

Commanding Officer HMAS Melville, Commander Michael Kumpis, was incredibly proud to have served on these vessels several times throughout his career.

“The last 20 years has seen these vessels take on a greater role within Navy, shifting from a primarily national charting focus towards border protection operations, enhanced regional engagement and the provision of maritime military geospatial information in the operational environment as part of a Task Group.”

Initially painted white, Leeuwin and Melville began their careers undertaking national charting and survey operations throughout their first decade of service.

Due to their versatility, ample space and large endurance, they quickly proved themselves ideal for a wide range of maritime taskings.

Over the years, both ships have supported Operations RELEX and RESOLUTE, have undertaken a range of Humanitarian Assistance missions and a range of adhoc and bespoke taskings.

Their specialised survey systems provide significant capability to the Fleet across a number of disciplines, either organically or as part of a Task Group.

“The Leeuwin Class, with a world’s best sonar system and the ability to deploy ScanEagle, added to the multidisciplinary versatility of the platform, makes the Hydrographic Survey vessel a valuable Fleet asset,” Commanding Officer HMAS Leeuwin, Commander Richard Mortimer, said.

Much more than just surveying platforms, the Leeuwin Class of ships continues to offer significant capability to the Royal Australian Navy.

While participating in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE in 2017, Hydrographic Survey ‘Blue Crew’ (embarked in Melville) were awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation for their role in the location and recovery operation of a United States Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey Aircraft which tragically crashed and sank off the coast of Queensland.

For the same operation, HS Blue Crew was also honoured to be awarded the Duke of Gloucester’s Cup, which was presented on board Melville by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

During the Royal Australian Navy’s International Fleet Review in 2013, Leeuwin took centre stage as the reviewing ship, hosting a number of dignitaries including the then Governor-General of Australia Quentin Bryce.

Most recently, both ships have increasingly deployed internationally as part of the Enhanced Regional Engagement program across the South West Pacific and South East Asian regions, undertaking valuable work and building relationships with Australia’s close neighbours.

”The Leeuwin Class Hydrographic Ships have provided outstanding service across a wide range of changing and expanding roles over the last 20 years, including non-core roles in Border Protection and Regional Engagement,” Commander Mine Warfare, Hydrographic and Patrol Boat Force, Captain Bryan Parker, said.

“The adaptability of their crews to meet these challenges with success has been of great credit to themselves and to Navy,” Captain Parker said.

The vessels have supported numerous International engagement activities, such as the Women in Maritime, Peace and Security forum that was hosted by Leeuwin in 2019 while alongside in the Federated States of Micronesia, highlighting the diverse and significant contributions made by this class of ships.

Reflecting the two vessels’ ship’s mottos “I Shall Maintain” and “With Determination”, Leeuwin and Melville have served the nation honourably for twenty years, charting a clear path for others to follow.

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