The Nigerian navy is visiting Australia for the first time – travelling more than 24,000 kilometres to take part in an Australian naval centenary event.
NNS Thunder and her crew are here to take part in the centenary of Australia’s first naval fleet review next month.
The centenary marks the first time Australians saw their new naval fleet when the ships powered into Sydney Harbour on October 4, 1913.
Captain Clement Atebi says his crew’s trip to Australia is to strengthen relations and demonstrate Nigeria’s naval capabilities.
Ryan Emery reports.
The crew of the NNS Thunder has come a long way to take part in an Australian celebration.
Their journey has been one of firsts:
A first-time captain has taken his crew on the longest journey they’ve ever faced to a country they’ve never visited.
Captain Clement Atebi says his crew will be putting their best feet forward in Australia.
“They are also conscious that they are also here representing not just the Nigerian navy, but the Nigerian nation on a flag showing visit so everybody will go out, but, of course, they’ll be cautious enough. And we’re good people and the responsibility is to project that image of the country as a good country.”
The NNS Thunder will join ships from other countries, including India, to mark the one hundred year anniversary of the first time Australia set eyes upon its new naval fleet.
The Australian Navy was formed in 1911, but it took several years before its fleet was built in British shipyards and then sailed into Sydney Harbour.
The NNS Thunder will take part in a re-enactment of the event next month.
Captain Atebi believes the trip will be mutually beneficial.
“We hope that at the end of this exercise; at the end of your visit we would have learnt or been able to share our experience with the Royal Australian Navy and then to also to share our experience and to discuss our common maritime operational issues that is why we are here.”
The NNS Thunder is a former United States Coastguard ship.
It was built in the 1960s and donated to the Nigerian navy in 2011.
Captain Atebi says since then, it’s been out fighting pirates and patrolling Nigeria’s offshore oil fields.
“We go about our territorial waters to make sure that the pirates don’t find safe haven to operate in that area and also, of course, Nigeria because of our crude oil reserves at sea and all those things we go around to make sure pirates and no vandals of those that would steal the major source of Nigeria’s foreign exchange that is the crude oil, which we have a lot of platforms at sea. So we police those.”
Despite spending much of their time patrolling off the Nigerian coast, Captain Atebi says his crew, and the 45-year-old ship, performed well during the long journey down the west coast of Africa and across the Indian Ocean to Fremantle.
“I would say that it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t as bad as expected. We were actually able to ride the waves through the cape of Africa, Cape Town. We rode the waves through Victoria, South Africa all the way from Madagascar. On the whole I think it was a good experience. There were certain experiences, but definitely I wouldn’t say it was too much for us to handle.
Another purpose of the 60-day long trip is diplomacy.
Captain Atebi says the ship stopped at other African nations, including South Africa, on its way south and will visit Melbourne and Albany in Western Australia on its way back to Nigeria next month.