AUSTRALIA'S newest navy ship, HMAS Ballarat, sailed into Perth yesterday under its own power, after running aground while on patrol at Christmas Island last month. The 3600 tonne Anzac-class frigate, commissioned in July last year, was grounded while conducting border patrols on January 22. After two days of inspections revealed the hull had not been penetrated, the Ballarat left for Western Australia's Fleet Base West at Garden Island, south of Perth. The ship's commander, David Hunter, said yesterday the Ballarat had maintained speeds of 15 knots in 6m seas and gale-force winds during the 10-day journey. Navy divers and engineers will conduct a technical assessment to determine whether the 118m ship, carrying 170 crew, can continue to Williamstown in Melbourne, where she is scheduled to undergo routine maintenance.
Cdr Hunter said he was confident damage to the new vessel was not as severe as first thought. The reason for the grounding was subject to a board of inquiry investigation, he said. HMAS BALLARAT - FFH 155