The New Zealand Government has approved plans to acquire a new ship for littoral operations, in a bid to enhance the country’s naval capability.

A request for tenders will soon be issued by the Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), revealed Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.

The approval follows a $493m contract to construct a new naval tanker, which was awarded to South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries last month.

"This new vessel is a much-needed platform for this unit to carry out their important work."

Under the littoral operations support capability project, the new ship is expected to support the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in performing hydrography, deep diving and mine countermeasure activities.

Brownlee said: “This ship will provide the RNZN Littoral Warfare Unit with a dedicated support ship that offers a range of useful capabilities in one hull.

“I recently visited members of the Littoral Warfare Unit as they participated in the RIMPAC exercise in Hawaii, and was very impressed by the work they do mapping the sea floor and employing deep divers to conduct a range of operations.

“This new vessel is a much-needed platform for this unit to carry out their important work.”

The new vessel will replace two navy ships, the 40-year old diving ship HMNZS Manawanui that is scheduled to retire in 2018, and the retired hydrographic ship HMNZS Resolution.

Brownlee further noted that the new vessel will also support sea-to-shore operations undertaken by the NZDF in low-to-medium threat environments, and can be engaged in humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the Pacific.

The ship will also be deployed into other missions, such as search-and-rescue, salvage, and hazard clearance activities around New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Image:  HMNZS Manawanui is due to retire in 2018. Photo: courtesy of New Zealand Defence Force.