South Korean shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) hosted the keel-laying ceremony for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s(RNZN) future fleet replenishment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa (A12), at its Ulsan shipyard, on Aug. 13, 2018.
This is a significant step for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), because it represents a tangible milestone in the journey to having a multi-purpose vessel that provides refuelling services, freshwater generation, significant cargo-carrying capability and the ability to conduct air patrols with an embarked Seasprite or NH90 helicopter.
Aotearoa represents the first of a new fleet of RNZN ships built specifically to address the global requirements of the New Zealand Defence Force and government agencies for deployment from Antarctica to the Arabian Gulf.
HMNZS Aotearoa is being built under the Maritime Sustainment Capability (MSC) program and will replace the 30-year old tanker HMNZS Endeavour (A11). The vessel is scheduled to be launched in March next year and the commissioning of the vessel is expected in 2020.
The ship’s name is a deliberate nod to the famous battle cruiser HMS New Zealand, which took part in three maritime battles in the First World War.
With a displacement of around 24,000 tons, HMNZS Aotearoa will be the biggest ship ever operated by the New Zealand Navy. It will be able to refuel ships, carry and refuel helicopters, produce and store water, and store and transport bulk goods.
The ship can hold 8,000 tons of fuel for ships, 1500 tons of aviation fuel, 250 tons of drinking water, eight standardized 20-foot containers for food, and four others with ammunition. A crane with a load capacity of 25 tonnes will be used to handle the cargo. There will be one supply station on each side, so the tanker will be able to supply two ships at once. It will also be equipped with desalination equipment to produce up to 100 tons of drinking water per day.
HMNZS Aotearoa will be a world-first naval “Environship”, with Hyundai using the Rolls-Royce Environship concept design under licence. The design incorporates a new wave-piercing hull, which reduces resistance and lowers fuel use, while its combined diesel electric and diesel propulsion plant has lower fuel emissions than older vessels. The Combined Diesel Electric and Diesel (CODLAD) propulsion system of the ship uses two Bergen main engines and four MTU diesel generators and enables a top speed of the vessel will be around 16 knots.
The tanker will be ice-strengthened and ‘winterised’ for operations in Antarctica and is designed for Polar Class 6 resistance. This will allow the ship to deliver fuel and other goods to support the Scott Base and McMurdo Station, during the summer months once an icebreaker has cleared a path. HMNZS Endeavour was not Antarctic-capable.
The armament of Aotearoa consists of a 20mm Mk.15 Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) and two Mini Typhoon Remote Weapon System (RWS). The vessel will carry two Juliet 3 (J3) Water Jet rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB). There will be a landing area and hangar for one NH90 helicopter on the ship.