HMNZS Canterbury was commissioned in June 2007, and is the second ship of the Royal New Zealand Navy to carry the name.


According to Dr. Gareth Evans, an Australian scholar, the 21st century will mark a change in modern naval properties. Non-traditional security challenges require permanent military operations instead of war.

In particular, an increasingly clear trend is the involvement of the navy in border protection, piracy detection or long-range counterterrorism activities, etc. This need requires a “total solution package” of maritime transport strategies, the provision of weapons, logistics or the ability to land from the air and sea from a large ship.

This “mother ship” must also be able to operate in various stages on the sea and undergo various types of missions. This feature is also consistent with the trend of naval streamline, even for countries with abundant budgets.

Countries around the world have in turn found products that meet the above requirements. The Royal New Zealand Navy has a small army of just 2,100 people, organized in a single fleet, based at Auckland naval base. The force is small with the number of weapons and combat equipment on the payroll is not much, but in return, the navy ships of this country are very modern. To meet the above strategy and to suit the internal conditions, the Royal New Zealand Navy has a policy to diversify warships, typically HMNZS Canterbury.


While many naval warships developed in a “specialized” way, the HMNZS Canterbury was designed to handle a variety of missions such as landing, logistics, reinforcements, and more. The strength of the HMNZS Canterbury is not onboard weapons, but on weapons that the ship can carry.

HMNZS Canterbury was commissioned in June 2007, and is the second ship of the Royal New Zealand Navy to carry the name, she is also New Zealand’s first purpose-built strategic sealift ship. The vessel cost 130 million New Zealand Dollar to construct.

HMNZS Canterbury’s design is based on a commercial RO-RO ship, Ben-My-Chree in operation in the Irish Sea. She was constructed with an ice-strengthened hull to allow her to operate in the subantarctic waters, where New Zealand governs several islands, and where Canterbury is to assist scientific expeditions.

The ship has an overall length of 131m (429.79 ft), beam of 23.4m (76.77 ft) and a draft of 5.4m (17.71 ft). Her full load displacement is 9,000 tons and can complement a crew of 109 including 53 of the core ship’s company, ten flight crew, four government agency officials, seven Army staff and 35 trainees.

HMNZS Canterbury’s design was criticised for its poor handling of rigid-hulled inflatable boats and sea keeping performance in high sea states. Canterbury has two wide stair wells and a large centrally located service elevator for moving the goods between decks.


The ship has cargo space of 1,451 square metres, which can be unloaded via two ramps, either from the starboard side or the stern. The indicative cargo would encompass: 14 Pinzgauer Light Operational Vehicles, 16 New Zealand light armoured vehicles, 7 Unimog trucks, 2 ambulances, 2 flatbed trucks, 7 vehicle trailers, 2 rough terrain forklifts, 4 ATV-type vehicles and up to 33 20ft containers.

The ship is equipped to embark up to eight containers of ammunition and up to two with hazardous materials, and also has an extensive fire sprinkler system.

Canterbury uses wide range of methods for moving supplies and troops from the ship to shore. The two 59t landing craft medium boats onboard can carry 50t of payload, for a range of 250 nautical miles. There are two Rigid-hulled inflatable boats for transferring small numbers of personnel.

Canterbury is able to accommodate up to four NH90 helicopters for deployment ashore in support of New Zealand Army operations and disaster relief activities. She is also capable of operating the SH-2G Seasprite and the helicopter deck is able to handle a Chinook-size helicopter.

The cargo and personnel are carried ashore in up to sea state 3. Canterbury has a five-bed hospital ward, a two-bed sickbay, an operating theatre, a medical laboratory and a morgue. The ship also contains a gym, workshops, an armoury and magazine, as well as offices for government officials embarked.


As a sealift ship, Canterbury is not intended to enter combat, or conduct opposed landings under fire. The ship’s armament consists of a single 25 mm M242 Bushmaster cannon fitted to an MSI DS25 stabilised mount, it  has a standard rate of fire of 180 rounds a minute.

In adition, there are two 12.7mm machine guns, and a number of small arms, these are intended for self-defence against other smaller craft, and for ocean patrol duties during a naval blockade.


Canterbury’s propulsion is a combined diesel and diesel-electric system consisting of two 4.5 Megawatt Wartsila engines, three auxiliary diesels and two bow thrusters.

The propulsion system provides a maximum speed of 19 knots, maximum range can be up to 8000 nautical miles at a speed of 16 knots.


Canterbury was heavily criticized for design errors that led to the loss one of her rigid-hulled inflatable boats during a strong storm in 2007. That same year, a crew member was killed when an rigid-hulled inflatable boat capsized whilst being lowered into the sea. An investigation has indicated that it was caused by the failure of a quick release shackle, which was now being replaced on all naval vessels.

A large amount of money was spent to fix the ship’s faults, the Australian builders of the ship, BAE Systems, agreed to pay $85 million towards remedying the faults of the ship, including the construction of the new landing craft. Improved design of the ladders and the relocation of the rigid-hulled inflatable boat has increased the safety and capability of the ship is no longer compromised.

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