The Australian Navy’s three remaining Landing Craft Heavy auxiliary vessels put on a proud display of thanks to the Cairns community, sailing in formation from the city’s harbor this morning. This was the last time HMA Ships Brunei, Labuan and Tarakan will sail in-company together in the port they have called home for nearly 30 years.
Commanding Officer of Brunei, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Richardson said the formation exit marks the start of the ships’ decommissioning voyages: “The first of the Balikpapan class ships arrived in Cairns in the mid-eighties. Since that time, they have been an enduring presence in the region. Today’s departure is the last time the community will see us sail as a group. The Landing Craft will decommission at a ceremony in Cairns in November.”
Following the departure, the Landing Craft will conduct training and transit to Cowley Beach, for a final beach landing. The ships will then part company and visit Bundaberg, Bowen, Ballina, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, Noumea and Honiara.
Reflecting on their years of service, Lieutenant Commander Richardson said the auxiliary vessels have provided essential support to the Australian community.
“Over their 40 years of service, the landing craft have provided an important sea lift capability,” he said.
“They’ve been the backbone of many deployments to the Solomon Islands, Bougainville and East Timor. They were there to help Darwin after cyclone Tracy in 1974 and more recently, they assisted Queensland in the clean up after Cyclone Yasi in 2011.”
“While it will be sad to see them retired, it is an exciting time, as Navy prepares for the new Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock ships,” Lieutenant Commander Richardson said.
Until recently the Royal Australian Navy operated six Balikpapan class vessels out of Cairns and Darwin. In December 2012, HMA Ships Wewak, Balikpapan and Betano were decommissioned.