Doubts about the ability of HMNZS Otago to patrol the
Southern Ocean are unfounded, the ship's captain says.
Lieutenant-commander Rob McCaw brought the Royal New Zealand
Navy offshore patrol vessel into Dunedin Harbour yesterday,
at the tail end of a lengthy operation which included patrols
throughout the Antarctic including the Ross Sea.
Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully
said a planned patrol of the Antarctic fishery was cancelled
because of concerns about the ability of navy offshore patrol
vessels to operate in the Southern Ocean.
He said he was advised the mission to tackle illegal or
unreported fishing was not possible because it was ''not
within the capabilities of the vessel''.
Lt-cmdr McCaw (32) joined the Otago crew as captain in
September last year, at the start of the ship's current
''Up until Christmas, we were in the Southern Ocean
patrolling and boarding fishing boats. We hailed 10 and
boarded eight fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean within
the ice, including one New Zealand vessel,'' he said.
''This year's the first year we haven't detected any illegal
fishing boats in the New Zealand zone, which is a great
Lt-cmdr McCaw said Otago and its sister ship HMNZS
Wellington were Class 1C vessels, which meant they had
the ''basic'' level of ice protection.
''That allows us to conduct operations throughout the
Southern Ocean and Antarctic region, including the Ross Sea,
providing the conditions are right. Every ship, no matter
what class, has to be aware of what's happening in the ice,''
New Zealand was the only signatory to the Commission for the
Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources which sent
its own navy ships to patrol the Antarctic, he said.
Operating in the Southern Ocean was a ''real challenge''
which tested the limits of both ship and crew, but also a
''buzz'', Lt-cmdr McCaw said.
''Not only are you having to navigate ice, shitty weather and
snow, you then have to overlay the operational side of things
like hunting fishing boats and intercepting them in the ice
conditions. It's a really great challenge,'' he said.
Lt-cmdr McCaw said the navy's training for such conditions
was ''world class'' and Maritime New Zealand was interested
in presenting the programme to the United Nations as ''the
''That's pretty cool for us.''
He said Otago was scheduled to undergo routine
maintenance once back in Devonport, where it would head to
after departing Dunedin on Monday.