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Wellington man keeps RNZN frigate on course

A former Onslow College student is showing the way to go as Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) frigate HMNZS Te Kaha builds up capability for future missions.

25 June, 2024

Lieutenant Julian Grimmett, from Khandallah in Wellington, is the navigating officer on board Te Kaha, which visited Wellington recently.

The navigating officer is a warfare officer of four to seven years’ experience who specialises in navigation. They are responsible for the safe passage and navigation of the ship at sea. 

Lieutenant Grimmett studied Information Technology at Weltec in Petone but realised it wasn’t for him. 

“It wasn’t what I was passionate about. I looked at the police and looked at the Defence Force and applied for both. To coin a phrase, I was looking for better work stories, I wanted something active.”

 He joined the Navy in 2013 and found he really enjoyed the 22-week officer training course.

“You might not appreciate it at the time, but it was really cool.”

Part of the training included a stint aboard training ship Spirit of New Zealand, taking the vessel to Sydney for the Royal Australian Navy’s 100th anniversary.

“It was 10 days over there, in tough seas. It was also my 21st birthday when I was there, so there was a 100-gun salute at the same time, which was pretty nice.”

As Te Kaha’s navigating officer he’s not on bridge ‘watches’, but supervises a small team of bridge watchkeepers.

HMNZ Te Kaha in Wellington

“I work pretty consistently from 8am to 8pm. There’s supervision and a lot of planning in my job. When you come in and out of a harbour like Wellington, you have to plan it out.”

For the Wellington visit, Te Kaha took aboard a CentrePort Wellington pilot to guide the ship to its berth at Queen’s Wharf.

“If a pilot comes on board, we don’t switch off. We have to be trained to fight regardless of circumstances. In a wartime situation a pilot may not be available. We train for visual navigation, and we need to be able do it anywhere in the world.”

He likes the mathematics side of the job.

“I know it’s a bit nerdy to say, but I’ve got a maths brain. Navigation is about triangulation, trigonometry and problem solving. There’s environmental factors, movement of the sun, the stars, the seasons.

 “The other thing I like is the personal skills. I’m the oversight for a small team, as the most experienced watchkeeper on board. I give coaching and advice to younger ones. I’ve previously been an instructor at the navigation training school in Australia.”

Next year Lieutenant Grimmett will further his warfare officer training in the United Kingdom, to qualify as a ship’s Principal Warfare Officer.

“My advice to people thinking about this career is to be open to experiences. I’ve been all around the Pacific and Asia, and made some amazing friends in New Zealand and other countries.

“I did a lot of growing up in my first years in the Navy. It gives you some pretty good life skills.”