Bringing a new Royal Australian Navy ship into service naturally brings some challenges – especially when it is only the fifth of its kind worldwide, and the first built in Australia to Australian specifications.

Understanding these challenges when commissioning a new ship is crucial to finding ways to safely and efficiently bring that new capability into service.

To this end, four members of NUSHIP Arafura, the first of the Royal Australian Navy’s new Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), visited their sister vessels, the Darussalam-class OPVs operated by the Royal Brunei Navy from June 26 to 30.

Royal Australian Navy members Commanding Officer NUSHIP Arafura Commander Cam Hooper, Lieutenant Lachlan Murray, Chief Petty Officer Matt Hitchcock and Petty Officer Darren Young were able to spend time alongside and at sea on three of the four Darussalam-class OPVs.

Observation of the operation of these vessels included the demonstration of a fire-fighting exercise, stern-launched sea boat operations and varied mission-specific modular configurations. This proved to be an invaluable reference point in developing procedures and expectations for the Royal Australian Navy’s own class of OPVs.

Lieutenant Murray said the willingness and freedom with which the Royal Brunei Navy officers and sailors shared their experiences with the platform was outstanding.

“They did not hesitate to pass on their own hard-won lessons and were frank in their acknowledgment of the challenges they had faced,” Lieutenant Murray said.

This selfless attitude points to the closeness of the Australia-Brunei relationship, recently highlighted by the elevation of the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive partnership during His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei’s visit to Australia in June.

The Arafura-class OPV will provide an upgrade in terms of size and capability over the various minor war vessel platforms currently in service, and will provide the Royal Australian Navy with mission flexibility and greater endurance when the first of class commissions in 2024.

Commander Hooper said he was looking forward to the ongoing relationship with the Royal Brunei Navy, with OPVs from both nations meeting at sea in the future.