Royal Australian Navy (RAN) auxiliary oiler replenishment ship HMAS Supply arrived in Tongan waters as part of Operation Tonga Assist 2022 on February 12. The ship’s company got down to work straightaway, conducting its first replenishment at sea (RAS) with HMAS Adelaide the same day. HMAS Supply sailor Petty Officer Boatswain Michael Hirschausen oversaw the RAS and said it’s a whole-ship evolution involving all departments on board the ship. Marine technicians test the fuel for quality in between the initial hose hook-up and the start of fuel distribution.
“Boatswains and boatswains’ mates manage the seamanship, engineers coordinate the refuelling, and electronics technicians assist with ship-to-ship communications. The ships closed to 60 metres and travelled at 12 knots to conduct the refuelling. It was essential for both ships to maintain consistent distance to avoid collision and ensure the hose line didn’t pull and spill fuel or damage the ships. I’m proud of our sailors. They kept a level head the whole time, despite some minor challenges,” Petty Officer Hirschausen said.
The RAS requires precise coordination to bring the two ships side-by-side to pass supplies and fuel. Supply and Adelaide’s crew conducted the inaugural RAS slowly and methodically, which set the precedent for future fuel transfers. In addition to over 600,000 litres of fuel, the RAS included 16 vertical replenishment loads of humanitarian and disaster relief stores via MRH-90 Taipan helicopter and a further 30 pallets of fresh food and supplies winched onto Adelaide’s landing craft. Adelaide’s navigator, Lieutenant Commander John Miller, said Supply’s arrival on Operation Tonga Assist 2022 was much anticipated. Supply commissioned in April 2021 and is one of the Royal Australian Navy’s two auxiliary oiler replenishment ships.
HMAS Supply (A195), named after the Royal Navy ship HMS Supply, is the lead ship of the Supply-class replenishment oilers built for the Royal Australian Navy by Navantia at their yard in Ferrol, Spain. The Australian Supply-class ships are based on the Spanish Navy’s replenishment oiler Cantabria. The vessel was launched on 18 November 2017 and commissioned on 10 April 2021. The Supply-class ships are intended to carry fuel, dry cargo, water, food, ammunition, equipment and spare parts to provide operational support for deployed Australian naval or combat forces operating away from the nation for long periods. In addition to replenishment, the vessels can be used to combat against environmental pollution at sea, provide logistics support for the armed forces, and to support humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) operations following a natural disaster.