PORT Authority of New South Wales launched two new response vessels in Sydney Harbour this week.

Burra and Girawaa are the fastest response vessels ever commissioned by the port authority. They replace Shirley Smith and Ted Noffs, which have been retired after almost 40 years of service.

PANSW and members of the local maritime community welcomed the new vessels with a traditional naming ceremony at Walsh Bay on Monday morning (22 January).

PANSW CEO Phil Holliday led the ceremony, with Reverend Un Tay of Mission to Seafarers sharing a maritime blessing and Sister Mary Leahy of Stella Maris sprinkling holy water (from the harbour) on the new vessels.

The new patrons of Burra and Girawaa poured champagne on the bows of their respective vessels, officially naming them.

The intimate event symbolised the beginning of the vessels’ journeys and hopes for a safe and successful lifetime of service.

“The Burra and Girawaa will become the new icons of our working harbours, honouring the rich tapestry of maritime heritage in Coastal Sydney and the Traditional Owners whose waters and lands we help to protect every day,” Captain Holliday said.

NSW-based shipyard Birdon built the new response vessels especially for response to major on-water incidents, including firefighting operations.

The project involved about 60 workers and an $11.5-million investment. Once completed in Port Macquarie, the new vessels embarked on their maiden voyage to Sydney.

Port Authority will deploy Burra in Sydney and Girawaa in Port Botany, where they will support Maritime NSW and NSW Police in major on water operations.

“These vessels are befitting of the hard-working harbours they have been built especially for and embody Port Authority’s commitment to excellence and innovation,” Mr Holliday said.

NSW minister for transport Jo Haylen said the names Burra and Girawaa pay homage to local Aboriginal languages, aligning the vessels with the waters they will protect.

“Seeing these vessels in action, you know our lands and waterways are in safe hands,” she said.

“Each boat can pump 16,000 litres of sea water per minute – equivalent to the capacity of four large fire engines.

“This investment has delivered cutting-edge vessels for Sydney Harbour and Botany, supported local manufacturing, retained highly skilled workers, and stimulated our regional economy.”

The organisations Tribal Warrior and the Gujaga Foundation worked with Aboriginal Elders and the local community to seek appropriate names and permissions for the vessels.

Gujaga Foundation chairperson Ray Ingrey said engagement with Aboriginal partners Tribal Warrior and the Gujaga Foundation, had allowed the Port Authority of NSW to name their new vessels Burra and Girawaa.

Girawaa is the Dharawal word for stingray, which is a spiritually significant being for Aboriginal people with a cultural connection to Coastal Sydney,” he said.

Burra (also spelt Bara) is the word for eel in multiple Aboriginal languages spoken within the Sydney basin.”

Tribal Warrior CEO Shane Phillips also acknowledged the significance of the names. “It is fitting that the Aboriginal names for the vessels were drawn from the waterways on which they will work,” he said.