HMAS Ballarat’s ship’s canteen is one of the busiest compartments on the ship, especially as the Fleet embraces contactless, COVID-safe port visits.

According to Ballarat’s Assistant Canteen Manager Leading Seaman Timothy Boyd the canteen is the hub of the ship’s community and is popular among the entire ship’s company who have been deployed throughout north-east and South-East Asia since April.

“Whether it’s to buy snacks, lollies and soft drinks, or to purchase items to swap with other ships, the canteen is a pretty busy place,” Leading Seaman Boyd said.

“I see our role as providing a morale boost to the ship’s company, particularly on busy COVID-safe deployments like this where port visits don’t include the usual opportunities to go ashore.”

Besides the usual fare on offer in a ship’s canteen Ballarat’s canteen also stocks various Ballarat-themed merchandise such as coins, shirts and beanies.

And despite the current non-contact nature of overseas deployments, these memorabilia items are still in high demand as bulk ship-to-ship trades are organised at sea whenever possible.

Another initiative implemented by canteen staff to widen its range of goods available involves taking orders for various Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and United States Navy-run Exchange (NEX) stores during port visits, replicating a long-standing highlight of visits to American military bases.

“Because we can’t go ashore during these visits we bring the NEX experience on board,” Leading Seaman Boyd said.

“For instance, while alongside in Japan, members of the ship’s company where able to order items from the local NEX store in Yokosuka that were delivered to our canteen.

Leading Seaman Boyd said canteen management also made a conscious effort to support local businesses in the ship’s home state of WA.

“We don’t just stock merchandise from the big companies but we also source product from market stalls in places like Fremantle when we are back home to sell on board the ship,” he said.

With the profits going back into the ship’s fund, and parts of it being spent to restock from businesses in the ship’s namesake Victorian city, Ballarat’s canteen provides a win-win situation for its ship’s company.

Ballarat is on a Regional Presence Deployment throughout maritime South-East and north Asia.