HMAS Ballarat Sails for Pacific Ocean

HMAS Ballarat Sails for Pacific Ocean

HMAS Ballarat has set sail for the Pacific Ocean to take part in an anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force, after a busy and culturally enriching port visit to the city of Kure, near Hiroshima.

The Anzac Class Frigate has spent the last four days in Kure, hosted by the JMSDF Destroyer Shimakaze. The two ships will participate in Exercise Nichi-gou Trident this week, and on completion they’ll be joined by the United States Navy for Exercise Pacific Bond, which will also have an underwater warfare focus.

While in Kure, Ballarat’s crew got a taste of Japanese culture through a wide range of activities planned by the Japanese host ship. The Australians, some who had never visited Japan before, were immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the local area. Their experience started with a tour of the Destroyer Shimakaze, which struck many as ‘the cleanest ship they had ever seen.’ The Japanese crew proudly showed off their ship’s arsenal, including a guided missile launch capability, two five inch guns, and an anti-submarine torpedo launching system.

Officers were later invited onboard Shimakaze for an official function, featuring mouth-watering Japanese food. Chef’s cooked tempura prawns to order, while guests enjoyed fresh sushi and sashimi, teriyaki chicken, and other Japanese delicacies.

As the guest-of-honour, Ballarat’s Commanding Officer, Commander Jonathan Earley, was invited to take part in a traditional ceremony during which participants use wooden mallets to crack the lid of a barrel containing the rice-wine ‘sake’. After a quick set of instructions from some Senior Japanese Officers, and a false-start, the lid was struck in unison.

Japanese culture is rich and vibrant and it was truly a privilege to have been invited to take part in it.’ “This week, we’ll bring some of Shimakaze’s crew members onboard to share in our culture, and see how we do things at sea on an Australian warship,” said CMDR Earley.

Several museum visits kept the Australian crew busy during their stay. First they were taken to the Iron Whale Museum, which details the history of Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force and the chance to tour a decommissioned JMSDF Submarine. They then broadened their Japanese WWII history at the Yamato Museum.

While his crew members brushed up on their history, Commander Earley was busy nurturing the good military and diplomatic relationships shared by the two countries. He attended a raft of official calls on local Government and Military VIP’s, and hosted a luncheon in his cabin for the JMSDF Commandant of the Kure District, Rear Admiral Oka, and Shimakaze’s Commanding Officer, Commander Yano.

Given Kure’s proximity to Hiroshima, many of Ballarat’s crew also took the opportunity to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park, and reflected on the sad events that occurred there during WWII. Sub Lieutenant Miquela Riley said she was moved by the experience. “Visiting the Peace Park in Hiroshima was a definite highlight of this deployment for me, it was very moving,” she said.

Several crew members also took the opportunity to tour the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force submarine Michisio which is also taking part in Exercise Nichi-gou Trident, the first time a Japanense Maritime Self Defence Force submarine has done so.

The port visit was concluded with an official function onboard Ballarat, during which the Australian crew performed a ceremonial sunset for their Japanese guests, who feasted on Australian cuisine such as crocodile, emu and kangaroo.

Ballarat’s next port visit will be to the city of Okinawa, following completion of Exercises Nichi-Gou Trident and Pacific Bond.

The ship is nearing the end of a four month deployment to North East Asia which is focussed on enhancing Defence relationships and interoperability, and promoting stability and security in the region.

Naval Today Staff, June 5, 2012; Image: Australian Navy