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Source: New Zealand Defence Force

30 June 2020<?xml:namespace prefix = "o" ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /???>

Kawerau woman Ulani Wratt joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) to see the world and next year she will get to see it on board the RNZN’s biggest-ever ship.

Seamanship Combat Specialist Wratt is part of the inaugural crew of Aotearoa, a 173-metre-long sustainment vessel that boasts state-of-the-art design and capability features.

Aotearoa completed her sea trials off South Korea recently and arrived in New Zealand last week, after a 16-day journey. She will be formally commissioned at the Devonport Naval Base in late July and Seamanship Combat Specialist Wratt can’t wait to get on board.

“I’m very excited to be a part of the first crew to serve on Aotearoa,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what its capabilities are.”

Seamanship Combat Specialist Wratt was born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, but her family moved to Kawerau when she was young and she attended Tarawera High School.

She joined the RNZN in 2017 to travel, make her family proud and serve New Zealand. Having an aunt and uncle who had served in the RNZN, plus a couple of cousins who are currently serving, added to the attraction.

“Hearing about all the exciting experiences they had during their time in the military was a big influence on me wanting to join,” she said. 

On completing Basic Training she did courses on damage control, gunnery training, seamanship and boarding. A typical day now involves learning to drive rigid-hulled inflatable boats, teaching the fundamentals of being a bowman and conducting gunnery drills and seamanship exercises such as force protection and boarding operations.

Outside her military duties Seamanship Combat Specialist Wratt is interested in dancing, acting and singing and is a keen sportswoman, playing soccer, netball and touch, as well as boxing competitively.

“The Navy is great at helping you with your interests outside of work. I have been lucky enough to have been released from work a couple of times to take part in boxing competitions,” she said.

At the start of this year she went on her first deployment, with the Royal Australian Navy travelling around South East Asia.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “I made heaps of friends from all around the world and got to experience things I had never imagined I would get to do.”

For the Commanding Officer of Aotearoa, Captain Simon Rooke, it’s all hands on deck as the ship gets nearer to being commissioned.

“I’m delighted with the calibre of officers and sailors we have and I know how proud they all are to be posted to Aotearoa,” Captain Rooke said. “There’s something very special about being a crew member of not only a brand new Navy ship but the biggest one we’ve ever had in our fleet.”

Aotearoa will assist the New Zealand Defence Force’s Southern Ocean monitoring. The ship’s enhanced “winterisation” capabilities, such as ice-strengthening, will allow it to undertake operations in Antarctica, including resupplying McMurdo Station and Scott Base.

Aotearoa has a world-first naval “Environship” design, which incorporates a new wave-piercing hull form that reduces resistance and lowers fuel consumption, while its combined diesel-electric and diesel propulsion plant has lower exhaust emissions than older ships.