HMAS Ballarat, Chinese Navy Frigate Anqing Team Up in PASSEX
Fostering a better understanding of how they operate in the maritime environment was the aim of the Passage Exercise (PASSEX) conducted between HMAS Ballarat (Commander Jonathan Earley) and the People’s Revolutionary Army – Navy frigate Anqing (LCDR Hu Jinchun) at the mouth of the Yangtze River on 21 May 12.
Both Australia and China have a long history of friendship and the PASSEX represented a valuable opportunity to further enrich that relationship. The exercise represented the culmination of Ballarat’s five day visit to Shanghai where the ship helped mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Specifically, the PASSEX sought to further promote ongoing engagement between the RAN and PLA-N through the conduct of practical exercises designed to improve interoperability and understanding of how each Navy conducts its business at sea. Such exercises are important in times of regional disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and security operations at sea, whereby nations often send naval assets to assist at short notice. PASSEXes such as these, help facilitate familiarity among our regional neighbours so that when assistance is called for in a time of need, ships are able to integrate and cooperate quickly and efficiently.
The PASSEX was planned in three phases with each phase increasing in complexity. The first phase commenced during the pilotage out of the Yangtze River with communication exercises conducted between tactical operators onboard both ships. The second phase involved Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres that demonstrated the ability for the two ships to safely and effectively operate in close company. The third and final phase was a joint search and rescue exercise based on a scenario provided by the PLA(N).
The exercise began with a VHF radio call about a stricken merchant vessel located to the East of the Yangtze Estuary. Both vessels closed the last known position at best speed and prepared to render assistance. Upon arrival at the last known position, a man overboard exercise was initiated by Anqing, with Ballarat launching her RHIB to conduct a search of the area. The RHIB then performed a recovery operation before returning the casualty to Anqing for further care. The RHIB crew had the unique experience of conducting a transfer alongside Anqing and performed their role quickly and professionally prior to returning to Ballarat.
On completion of the PASSEX CO Ballarat thanked his PLA(N) counterpart and his crew for a rewarding and productive exercise, stating “Our exercise today contributed significantly in deepening our mutual respect and trust of each other’s capabilities at sea and has further strengthened our bilateral relationship in many ways. We look forward to conducting more maritime engagement activities with the PLA(N) in the near future”.
Ballarat is currently on a North East Asian Deployment with further bilateral exercises planned with the Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States prior to returning to Sydney in late June.
Naval Today Staff , May 23, 2012; Image: Australian Navy