The Nautical Institute Queensland Branch Seminars and Branch Activities



Technical Meeting - 26 April 2006

The first meeting of the year of the Queensland Branch was at the auditorium of Maritime Safety, Brisbane, Queensland, hosted by Captain John Watkinson FNI, General Manager Maritime Safety Queensland.

The meeting took the form of an excellent presentation by Captain Richard Johnson MNI Regional Harbour Master, Port of Brisbane and Captain Chris Gallagher of Brisbane Marine Pilots, the subject matter of which was “The preparation and implementation for the visit to the Port of Brisbane of the United States Navy Aircraft Carrier RONALD REAGAN”. (photographs)

A number of the USN nuclear powered Aircraft Carriers of the NIMITZ Class have called at the Australian Ports of Fremantle and Hobart over the years however in each case they have anchored off shore. In the case of the Ronald Reagan, the latest in a class of nine, the decision was made to actually berth alongside in the Port of Brisbane.

Brisbane has had a long tradition of hosting United States warships and during WW2 was an important forward base for US warships especially Submarines. Subsequently the port has played host to numerous United States warships including the Battleship Missouri, heavy Amphibious Units and a number of Submarines both conventional and nuclear powered..

The two speakers were part of a team of five Australians, comprising two Royal Australian Officers, the Regional Harbour Master, two Brisbane Marine Pilots who together with five USN personnel carried out a feasibility study and simulation exercises at the USNaval base in San Diego. This was to ensure that the exercise was both safe and practical from the navigation point of view. The simulation programme was undertaken over a number of days using the model of the Port of Brisbane and approaches. Locally all levels of government together with local residents bodies were involved through the Nuclear Powered Warship Visit Committee.

The vessel itself was the largest to enter the port at LOA 333m, beam 40.8m , flight deck beam 76.8m,draft 11.7m and a large bridge island situated aft of mid-ships and to starboard. The 2 Westinghouse reactors are coupled to four propellors and have an output of 260,000HP which gives a speed of 30+ knots. The vessel which is primarily a floating airfield was ordered 8/12/94, keel laid 4/3/01 and commissioned 12/7/03 .The vessel has the pennant number CVN76 and has a loaded displacement of 105,669 tons. Operational crew number 3,200, air wing 2,480 and has an aircraft component of around 80.

Arrival was 23/1/06 and the appropriate personnel were ferried out to the vessel by Blackhawk helicopter 50 miles offshore. A detailed passage plan had been provided and this together with a risk management procedure ensured that the two pilots and the bridge navigation team were in total agreement at all times. The approach to the passage down Moreton Bay requires an acute turn at one of the initial buoys and this had caused concern both during trials and during the approach which was commenced at mid day.

A security escort of twenty three craft were in attendance together with aerial surveillance in order to keep onlookers well clear. The Pilots found the vessel very manoeuverable and capable of a quick acceleration and a rapidly resultant minimal stopping distance. The berthing procedure was undertaken with the assistance of four tugs with the vessel swinging on arrival allowing for a starboard side to berthing arrangement. Pleasingly the whole navigational, safety and security operation went according to the original plan. The port visit was a four day duration and departure followed the same trouble free procedure. The Port of Brisbane looks forward to more visits of this type having exhibited a thoroughness of preparation and practical application which is a credit to all parties involved.

The presentation by the two speakers was excellent both from the visual and oral aspect and it gave the receptive audience an insight into an operation of considerable complexity. Additionally a number of other interesting aspects of the visit were discussed Branch Chairman Captain Peter Liley MNI moved a vote of thanks to both speakers and our host on behalf of the attendees.

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