"I have the ship" - Change of Command for HMNZS CANTERBURY

"I have the ship" - Change of Command for HMNZS CANTERBURY

Photo caption: 20110525_PH_V1020230_0007 Official portrait of Commander Sean Stewart.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A ceremony to mark the official change of Commanding Officer of the Navy’s Sealift and Amphibious Support Vessel, HMNZS CANTERBURY will be held on board the ship on Wednesday, 8 June 2011 at 10:30am.

During the ceremony Commander Jim Gilmour will relinquish command of HMNZS CANTERBURY and Commander Sean Stewart will assume command.

The Change of Command Ceremony is traditionally formal and impressive – designed to strengthen the respect for authority, which is vital to any military organisation. The changing of command takes place when Commander Gilmour states “You have the ship” and Commander Stewart replies “I have the ship”.

Witnessing the ceremony will be the crew of HMNZS CANTERBURY, invited guests, family and friends. The Maritime Component Commander, Commodore John Martin, will be officiating the Change of Command ceremony

Once the change of command has taken place, Commodore John Martin will promote Commander Gilmour to the rank of Captain. Captain Gilmour will be taking command of the Combined Task Force (CTF 151) which is the US-led counter piracy task force. He is the first NZ Defence Force naval officer to command a major multinational task force in recent times.


Commander Sean Stewart was born in Gore in the South Island of New Zealand on the 12th of August 1969. He joined the Royal New Zealand Navy on 21st January 1988 as a Midshipman on the General List of Officers in the Seaman specialisation. Between January 1988 and October 1991 Commander Stewart trained at sea in HMNZS Tui, Monowai, Endeavour, Southland and Waikato.  Commander Stewart attended Bougainville Peace Talks, Papua New Guinea whilst onboard Waikato.

Commander Stewart gained his Bridge Watch-keeping Certificate in Southland in 1991, later that year commencing specialist training as a Helicopter Approach Controller (HAC) before posting back to Waikato. In 1993 he posted to the Diving Support Ship HMNZS Manawanui as the Executive Officer. Commander Stewart was promoted to Lieutenant in September 1993 and posted to Southland before a brief period as Operations Officer in the Fleet Tanker HMNZS Endeavour.

In 1994 Commander Stewart undertook the first of a number of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) courses he would attend in his career gaining his Anti Submarine Aircraft Controllers (ASAC) qualification at HMAS Watson in Sydney. On completion he returned to Waikato as the Aircraft Control Officer; later he was to gain an instructor level qualification in this field.

Commander Stewart commenced training for the ANZAC Class Ships in Melbourne, Australia late 1995, in preparation for the delivery of HMNZS Te Kaha as a member of the commissioning crew. Commander Stewart remained posted to Te Kaha before attending his Principal Warfare Officers (PWO) Course at WATSON in 1998/99. On completion of PWO course Commander Stewart returned to Te Kaha as the Gunnery Officer, seeing operational service in East Timor and the Arabian Gulf. Remaining in Te Kaha, he was appointed as the Operations Officer following promotion to Lieutenant Commander in September 2000, seeing further operational service in the Solomon Islands.

Following this prolonged period at sea, Commander Stewart was posted ashore for a short term as Staff Officer Intelligence on the staff of the then Maritime Commander, New Zealand, followed by a brief period as the Command Management and Divisional School Officer, responsible for all leadership and advancement training. On completion of his shore time Commander Stewart returned to Te Kaha as Operations Officer again heading north for operations in the Arabian Gulf.

In 2004 he posted ashore as the Operations Training Officer responsible for specialist warfare training and was also the RNZN operations representative at the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration series of meetings.

Commander Stewart returned to sea as the Executive Officer Te Kaha in 2006 before being promoted to Commander in November 2007 commensurate with his appointment as the Director of Development on the Staff of the Five Power Defence Arrangement’s, Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System (HQIADS) in Butterworth, Malaysia. Whilst in Malaysia, Commander Stewart completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) returning to New Zealand in 2010 to take up an appointment in Defence Headquarters as the Inspector General of the Navy on the personal staff of the Chief of Navy. On completion of this appointment in June 2011, Commander Stewart returned to sea as the Commanding Officer of HMNZS Canterbury.


Media are welcome to attend the Change of Command Ceremony at the Devonport Naval Base. Photographic Identification is required for entry to the Naval Base. 

For further information, requests for interviews and registrations of interest to attend the ceremony, please contact Lieutenant Sarah Campbell on 021 244 0638.


This page was last reviewed on 7 June 2011.