Containing dangers in the Middle East

This article has photo gallery Published on SBLT Mitchell Vines (author), POCD Joshua Drennan (photographer), LSEW Melissa Girling (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06)

(L-R) Able Seaman Clearance Diver Marco Valinsise and Able Seaman Clearance Diver Michael McGuinness set the explosive charge to destroy a container. (photo: POCD Joshua Drennan)
(L-R) Able Seaman Clearance Diver Marco Valinsise and Able Seaman Clearance Diver Michael McGuinness set the explosive charge to destroy a container.

HMAS Newcastle’s ship’s company has combined to remove a dangerous maritime hazard in the Gulf of Oman.

Newcastle’s embarked Seahawk helicopter, Gremlin, identified a partially submerged container that was believed to have come loose from a local dhow recently and reported the issue to the ship for advice.

Hazards such as this can inflict significant damage to the hull of an unlucky vessel if left adrift.

Newcastle’s embarked Clearance Divers conducted a closer inspection which revealed it was a timber container with an air pocket keeping it afloat.

Assessed as being a danger to other vessels, the decision was made to destroy the hazard with explosives.

The augmented Clearance Diving team, comprising Petty Officer Brenton Walters Walters, Petty Officer Joshua Drennan, Able Seaman Marco Valensise and Able Seaman Michael Mcguinness sprang into action.

On setting up the demolition explosive and igniting the safety fuse, the team quickly moved to a safe distance while the safety fuse burnt down its measured length.

The detonation occurred as planned consigning the container to the depths and removing a significant navigational hazard from the busy stretch of ocean.

Officer of the Watch Sub Lieutenant Matthew Stobo watched the destruction from the safety of Newcastle’s bridge.

“While you can’t plan for these things, it’s important that we do our part in keeping the seas safe for all.

“There’s so much traffic out here, this hazard could have caused a problem if left floating like that.”

Newcastle has left the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) after she spent about five months assigned to Operation SLIPPER - the Australian Defence Force contribution to the international campaign against piracy, smuggling and terrorism in the Gulf of Aden and for enhancing regional maritime security and engagement. Her deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990.