HMAS Tobruk begins distribution of aid

Published on LCDR Al Tomlinson (author), ABIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

HMAS Tobruk's embarked MRH90 helicopter departs the ship to deliver care packages to remote parts of Vanuatu during Operation Pacific Assist 2015. (photo: ABIS Tom Gibson)
HMAS Tobruk's embarked MRH90 helicopter departs the ship to deliver care packages to remote parts of Vanuatu during Operation Pacific Assist 2015.

HMAS Tobruk is distributing humanitarian supplies by MRH-90 Taipan helicopter and amphibious craft to the southern Vanuatu island of Erromango and Tanna.

Erromango is 200km south of the capital of Vanuatu Port Vila and was in the direct path of the category five cyclone when it struck on 14-15 March. 

HMAS Tobruk, under the command of Commander Leif Maxfield, sailed from Townville on 18 March following the Australian Government’s decision to provide humanitarian support.

“Due to Tobruk’s unique capabilities, we can rapidly deliver supplies, equipment and reconstruction teams by crane, landing craft and in this case, helicopter,” Commander Maxfield said.

Barrels of petrol are craned from an Australian Army Light Amphibious Replenishment Cargo vehicle (LARC V) onto HMAS Tobruk during Operation Pacific Assist 2015.

Barrels of petrol are craned from an Australian Army Light Amphibious Replenishment Cargo vehicle (LARC V) onto HMAS Tobruk during Operation Pacific Assist 2015.

The supplies started to be delivered on 26 March, initially by Tobruk’s helicopter followed by the embarked Army LARC-V amphibious vehicles and LCM-8 landing craft.

Included in the supplies were Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australian Aid temporary shelters, Oxfam Australia water buckets and hygiene kits. 

The hygiene kits, which contain over 30 items including soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent and toothpaste, will be particularly useful as the cyclone disrupted the island’s water and sanitation services. 

These supplies will be distributed under the direction of the Vanuatu Government’s Provincial Emergency Operations Centres, which have completed an extensive reconnaissance of Erromango’s cyclone affected areas.

Commander Maxfield said the operational versatility of the MRH-90 was exceptional and its carrying capacity made it ideal to conduct relief flights to even the most remote communities.

“That’s why we have been asked by the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office to concentrate our relief efforts at the remote southern island of Tanna and Erromango,” he said.

Commander Maxfield said the 335 Navy, Army and Air Force men and women onboard Tobruk were looking forward to putting their commitment to help the people of Vanuatu to maximum effect. 

“For many, this is exactly why they joined the Australian Defence Force. To make a difference and help our regional partners in times of crisis,” he said.