In response to the 2022 Hunga Tonga eruption and tsunami, Royal New Zealand Navy’s HMNZS Aotearoa and HMNZS Wellington were deployed to provide water supplies, survey teams, and helicopter support. HMNZS Aotearoa also refuels Tonga’s Guardian-class patrol boat VOEA Ngahau Siliva in Nuku’alofa Harbour. Supply provided support to ships through rapid refueling while Royal New Zealand Navy conducted humanitarian assistance and disaster response activities. The refueling is carried out in a contactless way, in line with COVID-19 prevention protocols. The provision of clean water to the people of Tonga has continued to be a priority for the crew of HMNZS Aotearoa, following the eruption and tsunami which struck Tonga more than a week ago.
On 14 January 2022, a very large eruption on Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai, an uninhabited volcanic island of the Tongan archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean, began. The eruption reached a powerful climax on the next day, 15 January. The eruption caused tsunamis in Tonga, Fiji, American Samoa, Vanuatu, and along the Pacific rim. At least three people were killed, some were injured, and many remain missing in Tonga from tsunami waves up to 15 m (49 ft) high. Images confirmed that most of the island have been wiped out; the New Zealand Defence Force described the damages as “catastrophic”. There were some reports of residents in Tonga struggling to breathe as a result of the ash.
VOEA Ngahau Siliva (P302) is the second of Tonga’s two Guardian-class patrol vessels. She is the eighth vessel of the 21 vessels in her class. Tonga was given three Pacific Forum-class patrol vessels in 1989, 1990, and 1991, VOEA Neiafu, VOEA Pangai, and VOEA Savea. Those vessels were designed to have a working life of at least 30 years, so Australia designed the Guardian class, a slightly larger, and more capable replacement class. Australia delivered her sister ship, the third vessel of her class, VOEA Ngahau Koula, to Tonga on June 21, 2019. She was formally handed over to Tonga on 30 October 2020, at Austal’s shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia. HM King Tupou VI commissioned the vessel on January 27, 2021.
HMNZS Aotearoa, formerly the Maritime Sustainment Capability project, is an auxiliary ship of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Builder Hyundai Heavy Industries delivered the ship to the Navy in June 2020, and she was commissioned into service on 29 July 2020. The full operational capability was expected to be achieved in 2021. It will serve as a replenishment oiler and has replaced HMNZS Endeavour, the Navy’s last fleet oiler, which was decommissioned in December 2017. Aotearoa is the largest ship the Royal New Zealand Navy has operated. Aotearoa is intended to support other navy warships by enabling re-fueling (diesel) and re-supplying (food and ammunition) during operations. The 26,000-tonne (26,000-long-ton) ship will provide marine diesel oil and aviation fuel. It stores food and ammunition in 20-foot (6.1 m) containers.