When the Royal New Zealand Navy’s biggest ship sets out on its first official journey, Southland-born Chief Petty Officer Dean Hapi will be the man making sure its kitted out.
Hapi, who is a logistics supply specialist, will be a member of the Aotearoa’s inaugural crew when the ship is formally commissioned later this month.
He can’t wait to get on board.
“I have never been part of commissioning a ship before and doing that with Aotearoa – the largest ship the RNZN has ever had – will make it a unique experience,” he said. “It will be exciting and a privilege, but will also come with a lot of responsibility.”
Hapi’s job is to make sure navy ships have everything from photocopy paper and cleaning products to engine parts, bullets and weapon systems onboard.
An average day sees him communicating with departments, placing orders, planning resupplies, talking with suppliers and organising transportation, he said.
Hapi was born in Gore and joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in 2009 after attending a Navy Adventure Challenge in Auckland while in Year 13 at Menzies College in Wyndham.
“I really enjoyed the culture, fitness, leadership, comradery and structure that the week offered,” he said. “I also knew I wanted to travel, get leadership opportunities, gain qualifications and learn trade skills, so rather than going to university I joined the navy.”
He’s already done a fair bit of travelling, joining operations and exercises to the Southern Ocean, Australia, the South Pacific, Antarctica, South East Asia twice and three times to Hawaii for Exercise Rimpac – the largest military maritime exercise in the world.
The Aotearoa is a state-of-the-art, 173m-long sustainment vessel and will used to help the navy with monitoring efforts in the Southern Ocean.
It’s capable of withstanding tough winter conditions, which means it can be used for operations in Antarctica, including resupplying McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
The ships environmentally friendly design incorporates a new wave-piercing hull form that reduces resistance and lowers fuel consumption, while a combination of diesel and electric power produces lower carbon emissions that older ships.
Commanding officer Captain Simon Rooke said it was all hands on deck as the ship gets nearer to being commissioned.
“There’s something very special about being a crew member of not only a brand-new navy ship, but the biggest one we’ve ever had in our fleet,” he said.