After two years of construction, the upgraded Royal Australian Navy Diving School and the Submarine and Underwater Medicine Unit (SUMU) at HMAS Penguin was officially opened by Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Michael van Balen today.
A number of dignitaries and invited guests, including currently serving and former Navy personnel were on hand to see RADM van Balen slice the ribbon with a clearance diving knife.
The buildings are part of a $63.3 million redevelopment which has modernised facilities at Penguin and the Pittwater Annexe in Clareville.
Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin, Commander Paul Doble said the enhancement provides purpose built training facilities and accommodation.
“The redevelopment has enhanced the ability of the Dive School and SUMU to deliver training and capability to the Navy. For the last few years, personnel were working in buildings built in the 1940’s, which were designed to support weapons testing and maintenance of the submarine fleet. This did not match the functions for which they are now required.
“For the first time, the upgrade has brought together all diving sub-branches including Clearance Diving, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Underwater Battle Damage Repair in the one complex, increasing the efficiency of training conduct and collegiality,” said Commander Doble.
Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Sean Ferguson, who has just spent nine months completing the advance diver course at Penguin, said the redevelopment would improve training outcomes.
“The redevelopment is a big deal. The facilities here were antiquated and very crowded. These new facilities are world class and on par with facilities that we have seen in Singapore and Malaysia. This will definitely improve training outcomes for future courses,” said LS Ferguson.
Members of the Clearance Diving community were also in attendance to see the improvements made to the Navy diving facilities first hand. Of note was the joint patrons of the RAN Clearance Diving Association, former Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane (Ret'd) and Commander Jake Linton (Ret'd), who was a member of the first clearance diving course in 1955 and a past Officer in Charge of the diving school.
Vice Admiral Crane reflected on the importance of the occasion.
“This is an important day for the men and women of the RAN and the Clearance Diving Community. The new dive school is an incredible investment and there are some significant pieces of equipment and infrastructure to support our Navy divers as they move forward into the future,” Vice Admiral Crane (Ret'd) said.
At the ceremony, RADM van Balen congratulated the Commanding Officer and his team on the success of the project.
“Currently there are 11 Navy Clearance Divers serving alongside their Army compatriots in the Middle East, conducting land-based counter Explosive Ordinance Device (EOD) and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) operations and counter terrorism duties in Tactical Assault Group elements. Following in the footsteps of their predecessors, today’s clearance divers are a highly professional group that provide Navy with true capability,” said RADM van Balen.
“The opening of the new Penguin waterfront and purpose built facilities to support diving training, ensures the continuance of this capability for Navy into the future. I congratulate the Commanding Officer and ship’s company of Penguin, Dive and SUMU instructors and staff.”
Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20132473.