KIAMA merchant seafarer Captain Jason Britton has had the honour of skippering the Australian Navy’s latest vessel, the ADV Ocean Shield, on its maiden voyage from Soviknes in Norway to Sydney.
The 11-week tour of duty, which finished with exercises off Kiama last Saturday, has left the 23-year merchant naval veteran in awe of the capabilities of the ship, which will primarily be used as a humanitarian and disaster relief vessel.
“She cost the Government $130 million, and, in my opinion, after judging exercises and trials conducted during the voyage from Norway, that is great value,” Mr Britton said.
“The Ocean Shield is about 111 metres long and 22 metres wide with more than 1000 square metres of deck space and a helipad. It has accommodation for 100 people.”
Mr Britton, 42, who grew up in Mt Warrigal and attended Oak Flats High School, has been a seafarer for 23 years, fulfilling a childhood dream of going to sea. He works for Teekay Shipping, completing his officer’s training and becoming a captain seven years ago.
“In the past I have skippered many vessels for Teekay, who work hand-in-hand with the Navy as well as doing a lot of work for BHP and petroleum companies like Caltex and Shell.”
“My greatest thrill came while in charge of the tanker Alexander Spirit in April 2011, rescuing three fishermen whose boat sunk off northern NSW.
“There really isn’t anything that compares with saving a life,” he said.
The ADV Ocean Shield is a purpose-built Offshore Construction Vessel adapted for humanitarian and disaster relief and is manned by a civilian crew that includes Bill Williamson from Oak Flats and Colin Johnson of Warilla, giving the ship a distinctly local feel.
“I decided to make one of our last training exercises, where we tested the ship’s capabilities, including its Dynamic Positioning capabilities [which means you don’t have to use an anchor while stationary in any weather] off Kiama.
“Why Kiama? Why not,” he said with a smile.
Mr Britton said he will share the captain’s role on a 6-8 week rotating roster and has high hopes for the Ocean Shield, which is likely to continue its current role for the next three or four years before it will most likely replace the present Customs ship the Ocean Protector.
“But mark my words, the ADV Ocean Shield will do something extraordinary one day – its capabilities and versatility are incredible,” he said.