Aussie Big Deck Adelaide Suffers Power Outage During Tonga Aid Operations

January 31, 2022 1:58 PM
Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Adelaide sits alongside Nuku’alofa to deliver humanitarian stores and medical supplies as part of OP TONGA ASSIST 22. Australian Defence Department Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (L01), currently engaged in humanitarian and disaster relief operations in Tonga, has suffered a power outrage, the Australian Department of Defence confirmed today.

The outage has not affected the ship’s ability to respond to any requirements in Tonga.

The statement from the Australian DOD followed Australian media reports on the outage. The DOD confirmed that the outage has not impacted food supplies, air conditioning is functioning aboard much of the ship, the sanitation and refrigeration systems are functioning and that the ship is not being towed.

The statement did not say how long the ship has been without power, but Australia’s ABC News reported today that it had been without power for several days already. The DoD statement said the ship turned on back-up power “to restore essential systems.”

“The situation is being closely monitored and the safety of the ship and the embarked personnel remains our highest priority,” the statement said.

“Civilian specialists are on route to conduct an assessment of the affected systems,” it continued.

The power loss is the latest problem to hit the Australian ship. On Tuesday, the DoD confirmed that Adelaide had recorded 23 positive COVID-19 cases, all of which were asymptomatic or displaying mild symptoms. Adelaide arrived in Tonga the next day and conducted a contactless unloading of supplies onto Vanu Wharf in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. The ship is currently standing by offshore waiting for any further request by the Tongan government.

HMAS Adelaide prepares to depart the Port of Brisbane with supplies, vehicles and aircraft and sail for Tonga to provide humanitarian supplies and assistance. Australian Defence Department Photo

On the same day, Japan was also forced to temporarily suspend its air transport relief operations to Tonga from Australia due to COVID-19 cases among its personnel. Operations resumed on Saturday after replacement personnel were flown into Australia.

Australia and New Zealand have both also airlifted relief supplies and conducted disaster damage assessment flights by P-8 Poseidons and P-3 Orions, respectively. China and France have also airlifted relief supplies to Tonga.

Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States are coordinating their relief efforts together, while China is operating independently.

New Zealand replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11), which has been in Tonga since Jan. 21, has conducted replenishment for U.S. Navy destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102) and U.K. Royal Navy offshore patrol vessel HMS Spey (P234), both of which have been deployed to Tonga for relief efforts, with Spey conducting a contactless unloading on Wednesday.

Tonga is one of the few nations in the world that is COVID-19 free and there are now concerns that personnel assisting in the relief efforts may inadvertently bring the virus to the island nation, where the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano erupted on Jan. 15. The Tongan government has instituted strict protocols mandating all relief supply deliveries have to be contactless and no personnel are to come into contact with the Tongan residents.

A number of ships delivering relief supplies to Tonga are inbound with the People’s Liberation Army Navy landing platform dock Wuzhishan (987) and replenishment ship Chaganhu (967). Wuzhishan and Chaganhu are the latest PLAN ships to get dispatched to Tonga, having left Guangzhou this morning carrying 1,400 tons of supplies and equipment.

Chinese commercial ships from Fiji delivered aid supplies to Tonga on Thursday. In transit to Tonga are Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force landing ship tank JS Osumi (LST-4001), French Navy patrol vessel FNS Arago (P675) and offshore patrol vessel FNS La Glorieuse (P686), and U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752). On scene with Adelaide, Aotearoa, Sampson and Spey is New Zealand offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington (P55) and multi-role support vessel HMNZS Canterbury (L421). Aotearoa will be returning soon to New Zealand for other tasking.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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