Latest News

More than 200 Australian sailors return

More than 200 Australian sailors have returned home after three months at sea without setting foot ashore due to COVID-19 precautions.

HMAS Hobart is docked in Sydney on Friday after travelling through southeast Asia and the Pacific, with Captain Phillipa Hay saying the crew could not wait to be back on dry land.

"Certainly everybody on board is looking forward to getting back to friends and family, and the simple parts of life like fresh bread and no restrictions on the amount of milk you can have in your cup of tea," Capt Hay told AAP on Friday.

The commander of a Task Group of five naval ships who were deployed for three months at sea, Capt Hay says it has been "distressing" for her crews to watch Australia struggle from afar.

"It's a wonderful sensation to look out across the water and see the east coast of Australia," she said.

"It has been very hard for us all to be watching what's happening back in Australia, and getting a real sense of the impact upon our loved ones or our families, particularly for those ship company who have family down in Victoria."

But Capt Hay says the crew has a challenge waiting for them when they reach shore, as they have been living as "one big cosy family" in a giant floating 'household'.

"It will be a readjustment when we get back alongside, to be able to move back into social distancing and masks and hand sanitiser so that we can re-engage with the community and stay safe," she said.

While aboard the crew took part in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) off Hawaii, the world's largest international maritime warfare exercise, held biennially.

This year, 22 ships and 5300 personnel from 10 countries including Canada, France, Japan, Singapore and the United States, took part.

Australia has attended all 49 RIMPACs ever held, but Capt Hay says this year's was unlike any other as the entire exercise was held at sea.

The crews practised multi-national anti-submarine warfare and maritime intercept operations, and conducted live-fire training events.

Capt Hay said the whole deployment was a challenge, with COVID-19 precautions meaning the vast majority of the crew did not step ashore even once in three months.

"Those who were lucky enough to cross the gangway were there only to pick up a box and carry it back on board, and that is as close to shore as they got," she said.

Effectively trapped on board, the companies had to create their own fun, she said.

"The flight deck became our backyard, so we set up movie screens, even an inflatable pool, table tennis tables - anything to keep ourselves amused.

"It was no cruise ship, but we did the best we could to keep ourselves entertained."

© AAP 2020