The assembly of visiting warships ahead of the International Fleet Review got underway on Sunday at Jervis Bay.
The vessels will sail up to Sydney for entry into the harbour exactly as the original seven ships of the first Australian navy did 100 years ago on Friday.
Eleven warships are already lying at anchor off the naval training base at HMAS Cresswell.
Ships from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia,Thailand and Brunei, China and India are among those participating in training exercises along with HMAS Parramatta.
The exercise is the flagship activity under Australia and Malaysia’s co-chairmanship of the inaugral meeting of ASEAN defence ministers maritime security working group. Of particular relevance to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pledge to turn back the boats, the exercises being rehearsed on Sunday were boarding techniques.
Teams from the USS Chosin, Malaysia’s KD Jebat and Thailand’s HTMS Krabi joined forces on RIBs to board the Japanese warship JDS Makanami watched by Indonesian observers.
An Australian team then dropped from a Seahawk helicopter to board the New Zealand ship HMNZ Te Mana.
Commodore Peter Leavy, co-exercise director, said the exercises would also include maritime security and aviation procedures.
“Maritime security is something that we really must protect and no nation can do that alone,” he said.
“Our ability to work with our regional neighbours and friends is so critical.”
He said it was a “significant undertaking” for many nations that had come such a long way to participate such as those from the US, Nigeria and Britain.
“The training we get at sea both this week and after the fleet review means that this is not just a commemorative undertaking in Sydney. There is some really valuable training with navies that we don’t get to work with all that often.”
He said when foreign sailors went ashore at HMAS Cresswell they were keen to photograph the kangaroos that abound at the base.
Another group of visiting warships off the coast will on Wednesday join those already in Jervis Bay for final preparations for the fleet review. Some 25 warships will head north for Sydney on Thursday morning.