A United States Navy ship will visit New Zealand in the next fortnight, it's been announced, providing an opportunity for our Defence Force (NZDF) to receive more training.
The vessel - an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer - will berth in Wellington at some point this month, the NZDF announced on Wednesday. While on our shores, the ship's crew will train and interact with NZDF personnel, as well as take part in interoperability exercises and official engagements.
The vessel's name and when it is scheduled to arrive and depart are not yet able to be released for operational reasons.
The ship will spend at least 14 days in isolation at sea prior to entering New Zealand, and all crew will require a negative test and to be double-vaccinated against COVID-19 before they're allowed to disembark.
Crew on the ship will be exempt from the COVID-19 Maritime Border Order, as the vessel has been granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. However they will be required to be compliant with the guidelines outlined in the Order.
The NZDF says a visit by a US Navy ship has been under consideration by the US since last year. Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Rear Admiral David Proctor, says the ship's arrival is a demonstration of the US' "active engagement" in the Pacific.
"They present opportunities for improving interoperability between our forces and building trust and understanding between partners," he said.
"NZDF ships and aircraft have also regularly participated in US-hosted exercises such as RIMPAC, and it is nice to be able to return the courtesy and show goodwill as we host a US Navy vessel and her crew here in New Zealand again."
Rear Admiral Proctor says the NZDF and Navy were looking forward to the visit.
"New Zealand and the US share a strong security and defence relationship, close economic links, and shared interests and values.
"The NZDF and the US Navy have a long history of engagement and working together; the latest example of which was the interaction by HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Aotearoa with US Navy and other partners' ships off Guam last month."
The vessel is the same class of ship as the USS Sampson, which visited in 2016 for our Navy's 75th Anniversary and International Naval Review, and was later called on to help respond to the devastation wreaked by the Kaikōura earthquake.
"When the US Navy last visited New Zealand, that earthquake had just hit, and the importance of interoperability was underscored in a completely unexpected way," recounts US Embassy Defense Attaché, Colonel Ian Murray.
"But that's the reality - tomorrow our navies could well be working together to solve problems that don't exist today. The friendships and understanding between our sailors and their Kiwi counterparts, matter in everything from crisis response to a routine refuelling at sea."