Saturday, 29 February 2020


Former HMNZS Manawanui’s legacy to continue in environmental protection role

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s dive tender, HMNZS Manawanui was instrumental in clearing the southern Pacific waters of unexploded ordnance left over from the Second World War. Now the decommissioned vessel will carry on a similar environmental mission, with ships sunk in battles during that same war.

Last Monday, the former HMNZS Manawanui passed into the hands of Paul Adams of Australia’s Major Projects Foundation. He will use the ship, renamed MV Recovery, to carry out research into the extent of fuel leakage and corrosion from wartime shipwrecks, mainly in Melanesia, and extract oil and fuel from sunken ships.

Mr Adams, the ship’s new master, Bill Fenelon and a 15-strong Australian volunteer crew attended the handover beside MV Recovery at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.

In a short ceremony, New Zealand Defence Force Programme Director Fleet Disposals Chris Calvert handed Mr Adams the ownership papers and bill of sale, while the Manawanui’s last commanding officer, CDR Muzz Kennett and new master, Mr Fenelon exchanged a Manawanui cap and a Major Projects Foundation t-shirt.

“I could not have picked a better outcome for the Manawanui,” said CDR Kennett, who spent much of the handover in a captain-to-captain chat about the ship’s capabilities and features with Mr Fenelon.

“In a sense she will be carrying on the work we have been doing. There was talk of the Manawanui becoming a dive attraction, but this is better. She will continue to do a highly valued role on the sea, as opposed to being a permanent feature under it.”

The Manawanui was decommissioned from the Royal New Zealand Navy on 23 February, following a farewell tour along the east coast of the North Island and a week in Whitianga, her home port.

The ship, as MV recovery, will be refitted in Australia and will spend several months on research missions off Australia’s east coast, before heading into the Pacific.

“I’ll follow the ship’s progress with interest,” CDR Kennett said. “I’m a keen diver. I might even go holidaying with her.” He speculated the ship could last another 20 years for the work the Major Projects Foundation planned.

“She’s a great little ship, very versatile,” CDR Kennett said. “She’s got a four-point anchor system, a dive bell, decompression on board, two 20ft containers and a five ton crane. She’s really set up to support diving.”

Mr Fenelon, who has experience in ocean oil recovery, said the MV Recovery looked like an excellent ship. “It’s a very capable boat for the kind of work we plan for her to do,” he said.

Mr Adams said they are delighted to have purchased the ship from the Royal New Zealand Navy. “There’s even three litres of fresh milk in the fridge this morning,” he said during the handover. “And it feels like the Navy have fallen in love with what we want to do.”

As well as extracting oil and fuel from sunken ships, the Major Projects Foundation could employ “cathodic protection”, involving the placement of batteries on a shipwreck’s hull to put a current through the steel, preventing further deterioration.

Commander Kennett - who has had two postings on HMNZS Manawanui, as executive officer and as commanding officer - said two things stood out for him while he was the commanding officer of the Manwanui. “The first was Operation Render Safe in 2016 in the Solomon Islands, recovering Second World War ordnance,” he said. “The other was the association of the Manawanui with Whitianga, her home port. Every time we went there, people would turn out and welcome us. For our farewell, we spent a week there and when we sailed, 400 people came to wave us goodbye.”


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