Source: New Zealand Defence Force
30 June 2020
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Southland man Dean Hapi joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) to travel and he is about to get that opportunity while serving on board the RNZN’s biggest-ever ship.
Chief Petty Officer Hapi 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 Chief Petty Officer Hapi can’t wait to get on board.
“I can’t wait to be a part of setting up the ship,” he said. “I have never been part of commissioning a ship before and doing that with Aotearoa – the largest ship the RNZN has ever had – will make it a unique experience. It will be exciting and a privilege, but will also come with a lot of responsibility.”
Chief Petty Officer Hapi, who was born in Gore, joined the RNZN in 2009, after attending a Navy Adventure Challenge in Auckland while in Year 13 at Menzies College in Wyndham.
“I really enjoyed the culture, fitness, leadership, comradery and structure that the week offered,” he said. “I also knew I wanted to travel, get leadership opportunities, gain qualifications and learn trade skills, so rather than going to university I joined the Navy.”
Eleven years on he hasn’t regretted that decision.
He currently works as a Logistics Supply Specialist, keeping ships operating by procuring everything from photocopy paper and cleaning products to engine parts, bullets and weapon systems.
“An average day is communicating with departments, placing orders, planning resupplies, talking with suppliers and organising transportation,” he said.
“While on board we also fit in a good lot of physical training and participate in ship activities like firefighting training, medical teams’ casualty care training, rigid-hulled inflatable boat driving and seamanship activities.”
And he has certainly fulfilled his desire to travel. Since joining he has been on operations and exercises to the Southern Ocean, Australia, the South Pacific, Antarctica, South East Asia twice and three times to Hawaii for Exercise Rimpac, the largest military maritime exercise in the world.
For the foreseeable future any travelling he does will be on Aotearoa.
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.