Damage control a joint responsibility

Published on WO Christopher Garner (author), SMNET Brandon Gilroy (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Toowoomba (F156), Indo-Pacific Endeavour

Lieutenant Commander Richard Carter points out affected compartments on the Damage Control board on HMAS Toowoomba, part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Task Group, Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017. (photo: SMNET Brandon Gilroy)
Lieutenant Commander Richard Carter points out affected compartments on the Damage Control board on HMAS Toowoomba, part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Task Group, Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017.

Emergencies can and will happen at sea with no warning so that is why it is important for onboard damage control training to be efficient as possible – a task every Australian Navy warship practices daily.

HMAS Toowoomba’s crew recently took part in a simulated aircraft crash to test their damage control response.

The training tested the crew’s capability to deal with medical, fire, flooding and communication challenges.

Overseeing the training in open waters off the coast of Indonesia was Toowoomba’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Hamish Frazer.

“The aim of the training is to make the crew aware of how to use the current fleet combat survivability equipment to its optimum capability, observing best practice and ensuring work health safety risks are mitigated so far as reasonably possible,” Lieutenant Commander Frazer said

“The training exercise reinforced the need to be more efficient and I believe there is always room for improvement.”

Toowoomba’s crew also received a personal briefing about a real life damage control incident from the Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard Carter.

He had previously served in the Royal Navy and was onboard HMS Nottingham when she ran aground on Wolf Island in the vicinity of Lord Howe Island in 2002.

“I used pictures, charts and diagrams to set the scene and demonstrate how the crew had to think on their feet to solve complicated damage control situations,” Lieutenant Commander Carter explained.

“It wasn’t just a single incident as the crew had to maintain the damage control effort for weeks while the ship was towed back to Australia.

“The crew and salvage teams had to maintain and reinforce shoring, remove water seeping through temporary repairs and monitor the condition of water tight bulkheads until the ship was eventually out of the water on a heavy lift ship for return to the UK.”

Toowoomba is currently deployed as part of an Australian task group in the Indo-Pacific region enhancing military cooperation with some of Australia’s key regional partners.