Consolidated relief efforts in Vanuatu

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Alistair Tomlinson (author), ABIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

The Commanding Officer FNS Vendemiaire, Captain Herve Siret (left) travels with his heads of departments towards HMAS Tobruk via his ships sea boat to discuss ways the French and Australian ships can best help the people of Vanuatu during Operation Pacific Assist 2015. (photo: ABIS Tom Gibson)
The Commanding Officer FNS Vendemiaire, Captain Herve Siret (left) travels with his heads of departments towards HMAS Tobruk via his ships sea boat to discuss ways the French and Australian ships can best help the people of Vanuatu during Operation Pacific Assist 2015.

The commanding officers of the Australian and French Navy ships assisting with humanitarian operations in Vanuatu have met on HMAS Tobruk to discuss the coordination of relief efforts.

Australia and France are two of the largest contributors to Vanuatu’s recovery in response to Tropical Cyclone Pam which decimated much of the Pacific nation on 13-14 March.

France was able to quickly respond to the Vanuatu Government’s call for help as they had a number of naval vessels already in the archipelago when Cyclone Pam struck.

A frigate, patrol boat, transport aircraft and reconstruction engineers are among the French military assets engaged in relief operations.

Commanding Officer HMAS Tobruk Commander Leif Maxfield said as the French were working in the same province as Australia, meeting to discuss joint progress was essential.

“Both Australia and France were asked by the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office to concentrate our relief efforts at the southern islands of Tanna and Erromango,” he said.

“There are a number of military challenges to providing relief efforts here including an active volcano, so comparing notes on the best way forward seemed the obvious thing to do.”

French association with the archipelago dates back to the 1880’s, but in a unique power sharing arrangement with the United Kingdom, agreed to jointly administer the islands in 1906.

This arrangement continued harmoniously until independence in 1980.

“The French have a lot of practical knowledge about this area and meeting them early in the relief effort allowed our countries to avoid duplication and then target support to the most critical areas,” Commander Maxfield said.