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It’s been called the “Commodore’s barge” or simply the “VIP barge”. To the Maintenance Support Team at Devonport Naval Base, she’s another job ticked off at the dockyard. The team have spent a month refreshing MAHANGA, the 14-metre vessel used by the Navy as a courtesy transport launch for Navy guests. Built by dockyard apprentices at HMNZS PHILOMEL in 1980 for Commodore Auckland, there is little history on her but she is likely named after one of two cross-harbour Liberty Boats built in 1966, MATAMUA and MAHANGA. The VIP barge is also used for ashes scattering ceremonies, a service the Navy provides to the public two or three times a year.

The navigation suite aboard, newly installed by the MST, is a modern fixture, but there are elements of old-style sea practice in MAHANGA, particularly with the teak decking and finishing. Teak is a natural non-slip wood. MST’s role at PHILOMEL is support to the fleet on any maintenance they need, says Able Weapons Technician

Brent Boeyen. Ships have maintenance crews, but often extra help is needed. “It could be any kind of job. We’ve just got a team back from Fiji, who went to help out

HMNZS TAUPO. We’ve got another team scheduled to go to Fiji to help HMNZS OTAGO with planned maintenance, so the Ship’s Company can have respite.”

MAHANGA had an unfortunate moment in 2012 when she was holed at the entrance to Tutukaka, on her way back from the Waitangi celebrations. She partially sunk, but was returned to PHILOMEL a week later for repairs.

(As printed in Navy Today, September 2018)

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