Royal Australian Navy retires two of its oldest vessels

The Royal Australian Navy’s oldest vessels, HMA ships Paluma and Mermaid, have been farewelled from service during a ceremony held at HMAS Cairns.

For more than 30 years, the survey motor launches collected hydrographic data necessary for creating products used by military, commercial and private vessels to safely navigate the waters around Australia. 

In addition to their critically important survey function, Commanding Officer Mermaid Lieutenant Commander Christopher Voysey said the ships also moved into operational support roles over the years.

“Since Mermaid’s first hydrographic operation at Bee Reef on February 26, 1990, the ship has steamed nearly 420,000 nautical miles and conducted innumerable surveys,” Lieutenant Commander Voysey stated.

Surveys aren’t the only function undertaken though. In February 2000, Mermaid and Paluma deployed to Bougainville Island in support of the peace monitoring group conducting Operation BEL ISI II ashore. Later in November that same year, the ships deployed to East Timor to support the United Nations transitional administration to East Timor operations.

As the older of the two, Paluma held the ‘First Lady of the Fleet’ title, which was passed on to HMAS Shepparton during the decommissioning ceremony. 

“We now look forward to integrating into and helping to develop Navy’s incoming maritime mine countermeasures and military survey capability through SEA1905 Phase 1,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Hamilton said.

SEA1905-1 will provide Defence with innovative and adaptive capabilities to meet the growing threat of mines, while developing maritime environmental knowledge.

The decommissioning of Paluma and Mermaid is part of the staged introduction of up to eight specialist vessels, which will have robotic, autonomous and artificial intelligence systems.

Photo: Royal Australian Navy