Three of nine ships belonging to the Royal New Zealand Navy are currently docked indefinitely at the Devonport naval base owing to insufficient personnel.
The 279-foot offshore patrol vessel titled the HMNZS Wellington is the third ship to be stepping into a period of idleness, in line with the Navy’s other offshore patrol vessels named HMNZS Otago and one of the two remaining 180-foot inshore patrol vessels dubbed the HMZNS Hawea.
Marshal Kevin Short, the Chief of Defense Force Air, declared the move would free up a chunk of engineering personnel amid workforce attrition. Placing a vessel into care and custody will help consolidate the workforce and even facilitate improved management of the impact of attrition, he argued.
Asked if the decisions would help enable the rest of the Navy’s fleet to be operational, a service spokesperson informed Defense News that it depends on multiple factors.
If the current attrition rate, which stands at 16.5%, can be arrested, it’s expected that there will likely be sufficient sailors to operate the remaining fleet, the spokesperson explained.
However, there exists a level of uncertainty until the attrition rate gets reversed. This needs several initiatives to be initiated, including addressing the increasing gap between sailor remuneration and the competitive job market’s offering.
But the pay isn’t necessarily the primary reason for attrition rates, per Gordon Crane, an independent defence consultant.
Many personnel reportedly ordered to manage quarantine facilities during the COVID-19 epidemic subsequently resigned, Crane informed Defense News.
In March 2022, New Zealand also sold two of its inshore patrol vessels to Ireland. At that time, David Proctor, the Chief of Navy Rear Adm., said that the two remaining vessels extend essential command and training opportunities for junior officers.
The HMNZS Taupo —the only coastal patrol vessel is now available, even though it has a complete work program scheduled for 2023, a Navy spokesperson reported to Defense News.