HMAS Toowoomba completed a successful Operation MANITOU maritime security deployment to the Middle East Region on 13 December and is now heading home to Perth.
Deployed as part of Australia’s Joint Task Force 633, Toowoomba conducted security patrols as part of the international community’s Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.
Chief of Joint Operations Command, Vice Admiral David Johnston said during her four-month deployment the Anzac class frigate with a ship’s company of 191 personnel, seized 6.3 tonnes of narcotics.
“HMAS Toowoomba has been operating in areas as diverse as the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, and across a vast section of the Indian Ocean along the east coast of Africa,” Vice Admiral David Johnston said.
“Toowoomba conducted 20 boardings, spending more than 240 hours inspecting dhows transiting the region, which of course ultimately saw her seize in excess of half-a-billion dollars (Australian) worth of narcotics which would have otherwise funded terrorist operations. A magnificent achievement made possible by international co-operation.”
Toowoomba’s first operational success occurred on 18 September when the warship intercepted a dhow 320 km off the coast of Africa carrying 5.6 tonnes of cannabis resin with an estimated Australian street value of over $280 million.
Toowoomba’s success continued with two further narcotic interceptions in quick succession on 17 and 19 November resulting in the discovery of 388kg and 324kg of heroin hidden in void spaces. The 712kg total had a combined estimated Australian street value of over $285 million.
During her 10 December farewell ceremony in Victoria, Seychelles; Commander Joint Task Force 633 Rear Admiral Trevor Jones commended the crew.
“Your deployment saw you away from home for five months. Your mission saw you in some of the most dangerous waters in the world and each one of you has played an important part in targeting the funding of international terrorism and piracy. I commend you on your deployment. You have done Australia proud,” Rear Admiral Jones said.
While Toowoomba’s primary mission was maritime security operations, the frigate also contributed to the prosperity and security of the region by rendering assistance to a dhow with propulsion failure which was under tow and had almost completely run out of water.
Toowoomba provided 160 litres of water via her Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat.
Commanding Officer Catherine Hayes said her crew was highly professional, efficient and effective.
“I’m extremely proud of the combined efforts of each of the 191 members of Toowoomba’s team,” she said.
“Working with the CMF team under CTF-150 has been very rewarding. The excellent level of cooperation ensured Toowoomba was positioned to intercept contacts of interest and achieve the operational successes that we did,” Commander Hayes said.
Commander CTF-150, Commodore Brian Santarpia of the Royal Canadian Navy also thanked the crew.
For Commodore Santarpia, HMAS Toowoomba has been a proud addition to a long succession of effective Australian, Canadian and other CMF warships in counter-terrorism operations.
“In my view, Toowoomba has definitively been the backbone of CTF-150 operations over the past few months,” Commodore Santarpia said.
“Australia can once again be very proud of her remarkable success. Bravo Zulu to you all and fair winds and following seas for your transit back home.”
Operation MANITOU is the Australian Government’s contribution to the international effort to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.
HMAS Toowoomba is the 58th Australian warship to deploy to the Middle East since the first Gulf War in 1990.