“A third of New Zealand’s Navy ships are docked over lack of crew” –Defense News

Coast Guard Day in the South Pacific. The command from USCGC Walnut (WLB 205) conduct an exchange with peers on HMNZS Otago (P148) discussing mission, challenges and comparing shipboard life in the region while off Samoa Aug. 4, 2019. The Walnut and Otago crews are in the region combating illegal fishing, a part of promoting maritime governance and a rules based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (Photo courtesy HMNZ Navy Lt. Samuel Murray/Released)

Defense News reports,

“Three of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s nine ships are now docked at the Devonport naval base indefinitely, due to insufficient personnel.”

Recruiting problems for the US have been in the news, but it is not uncommon. US Coast Guardsmen are helping to man Royal Navy frigates. Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force is having trouble recruiting. US Navy ships are frequently shorthanded.

HMNZS Wellington first arrival into Devonport Naval Base

What struck me about the story was the choice of ships laid up. New Zealand has chosen to lay up three of its four patrol vessels, retaining only one of the least capable. The New Zealand Navy is small, and it does coast guard tasks as well as national defense. The entire fleet consist of nine ships:

  • Two 3,600 ton frigates, crew of 178 each
  • Two 1,900 ton Offshore Patrol Vessels, similar to WMECs, crew of 49 each (both Otago and Wellington pictured above are laid up)
  • Two 340 ton Inshore Patrol Vessels, similar to Webber class WPCs, crew of 24 each (HMNZS Hawea pictured below is laid up)
  • One 9,000 ton multirole vessel, a transport, with a crew of 53
  • One 5,741 ton hydrographic and diver support vessel, with a crew of 39
  • One 26,000 ton ice-strengthened underway replenishment ship, with a crew of 75

Inshore patrol boat HMNZS Hawea (P3571) entering Otago Harbour, New Zealand, Aug. 2009. Photo credit: Benchill

New Zealand has been helpful to neighboring Pacific island nations in regard to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing and disaster response. Hopefully they will continue in this role, perhaps using their multipurpose vessel and/or their underway replenishment ship which also provide unique capabilities.

9 thoughts on ““A third of New Zealand’s Navy ships are docked over lack of crew” –Defense News

  1. The problem with the Royal New Zealand Navy is that they tend to act more like a Coast Guard type Navy than an actual Navy. In fact they are more aligned with the Irish Navy.

  2. Both Ireland and New Zealand are Island Nations with roughly the same population size of around 5-Mln. Neither of the two get outside financial assistance from other countries including the United States, forcing them to be more circumspect as to how and where their respective defense budget is spent, which make Vard a reasonably good choice for their respective Naval needs…

  3. Singapore’s population is 5.4 mil which is slightly above NZ but RSN has a much larger fleet. Setting aside the conscripts, the active / regular forces alone is close to 4000, according to Wiki.

    The key thing is they invested heavily in automation; their frigates operate with a fraction of the crew (<100) of NZ's

    • “Iron Sand”! Air Defense of New Zealand is supplied by the Royal Singapore Air Force! New Zealand’s only marketable export is Iron Sand which Singapore uses to produce steel! Enough that Singapore is willing to commit an Air Defense umbrella to protect their source of Iron Sand! Also the economy of Singapore is in Trillions of USD, whereas New Zealand’s ~$250-Bln USD…

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