The main entrance of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) naval base HMAS Cairns. Image courtesy of Fosnez.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Armidale Class patrol boat HMAS Childers tied-up at the naval base HMAS Cairns in Cairns, Queensland. Image courtesy of Saberwyn.
The US 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) enters into HMAS Cairns, Australia, for a port visit. Image courtesy of US Navy, Mass Communication Specialist Greg Mitchell.
The amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) rests at the pier side of the HMAS Cairns. Image courtesy of US Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardelito Gervacio.

HMAS Cairns is a naval base of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Located in Cairns, on the northern shore of the Trinity Inlet, the naval base supports the RAN in its operations across northeastern Australia.

The base population of HMAS Cairns includes 900 navy and civilian personnel. It is a homeport for 14 naval vessels of the RAN.

History of the RAN’s HMAS Cairns

"HMAS Cairns now exists on the area which was originally used to a build naval ship repair facility at the outbreak of World War II."

The naval presence at Cairns was founded before World War II, when it was used as a port-of-call for the RAN fleet on a regular basis. Cairns served as a principal port-of-call for both military and merchant vessels travelling to the Pacific destinations during World War II.

The permanent RAN presence was not established until a new patrol boat facility was set up in 1971. The new facility was built to provide regular repair and maintenance services for the newly formed Second Australian Patrol Boat Squadron. Fifteen sailors and one officer were employed at the facility.

The refitting of the first patrol boats began in mid-1971 by private contractors. The facility was named HMAS Cairns in February 1974 after an Australian World War II Bathurst Class corvette. HMAS Cairns also became the home port for the three Attack Class patrol boats and a single hydrographic survey ship that year.

The re-construction of the new facility commenced at Draper Street in 1979. The new base was relocated and officially recommissioned in May 1982. The new establishment accommodated 13 officers and 100 sailors.

HMAS Cairns now exists on the area which was originally used to a build naval ship repair facility at the outbreak of World War II. The expansion of HMAS Cairns continued until a major redevelopment was completed by Thiess in June 2009. The project management and contract administration services were provided by GHD.

The redevelopment project transformed HMAS Cairns into a modern naval complex providing berthing space and shore services for visiting major fleet units (MFU) and minor war vessels (MWV).

HMAS Cairns operations

HMAS Cairns delivers maintenance, logistical and administrative support to the homeported ships of the RAN Hydrographic Service, four Armidale Class patrol boats (Ardent Division) and four Balikpapan Class landing craft.

The naval base also provides refit and training services to the adjacent Pacific Island nations (Pacific Class Patrol Boats).

The vessels homeported at HMAS Cairns include: HMAS Bundaberg (91), HMAS Wollongong (92), HMAS Childers (93), HMAS Launceston (94), HMAS Brunei (L127), HMAS Labuan (L128), HMAS Tarakan (L129), HMAS Wewak (L130), HMAS Leeuwin (A245), HMAS Melville (A246), HMAS Paluma (A01), HMAS Mermaid (A02), HMAS Shepparton (A03) and HMAS Benalla (A04).

Garrison facilities at the northeastern naval base

The Navy Wharf serves as a primary berthing facility at HMAS Cairns. It has wider access to accommodate large vessels.

"HMAS Cairns is a naval base of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)."

The RAN also uses berthing spaces at the adjacent commercial wharf. The shore services such as electricity, water, sewerage, lighting and fuel re-supply were upgraded during the redevelopment project.

The base also houses the Fleet Logistic Support Element, Fleet Support Unit, Laser Airborne Depth Sounding Flight, Defence Communication Station, Patrol Boat Systems Programme Office, Amphibious and Afloat Support Systems Programme Office, Hydrographic Systems Program Office and Sea Training Group.

The service accommodation for officers and senior sailors is provided off base at the Northern Heritage. The hotel or resort style live-in complex offers television lounges, outdoor bar and barbecue with Pay TV and swimming pool.

The hotel / resort style accommodation for junior sailors is also located off base at Las Palmas. The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) offers service married quarters (SMQ) for the married navy personnel.

The Defence Community Organisation (DCO) at HMAS Cairns supports the families of Australian Defence Forces. In May 2010, the Defence Indigenous Development Programme and the Defence Reconciliation Action Plan 2010-2014 were launched at HMAS Cairns to prepare young native individuals for entry into the Australian Defence Force.

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