HMAS Ballarat has completed a successful first patrol in the Middle East.
Over seven days, the Australian warship conducted joint operations with the United States Coast Guard and the Iraqi and Kuwaiti navies, and carried out almost 90 vessel boardings and approaches.
Ballarat finished the patrol in Kuwait, taking the opportunity to reaffirm a Defence relationship that has existed since Australia helped liberate the country in 1991.
The Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Johnson, said spirits on board were justifiably high after the strong start to the nine-month deployment.
“The crew has trained hard to get to this point. It is pleasing to see that not only has that work enabled us to operate safely in a complex environment but also allowed us to showcase the professionalism of the men and women of the Royal Australian Navy to our partners in the region,” Commander Johnson said.
“The team has made a strong start to the deployment and I am proud of what we have achieved. We have a long way to go but I have every confidence in the crew as we continue to contribute to maritime security in the Middle East region.”
An official reception was held on Ballarat to mark the warship’s visit to Kuwait City.
Australia’s Ambassador to Kuwait, His Excellency Jonathan Gilbert attended the event. Mr Gilbert said Australia was one of the first nations to step forward to help liberate Kuwait in 1991.
More than 1800 Australian Defence Force personnel were deployed to the region from August 1990 to September 1991. Australia’s contribution included seven Royal Australian Navy vessels and a clearance diving team.
Mr Gilbert said Australia was proud to have stood alongside Kuwait and our Coalition partners during the liberation.
“And as the 28th anniversary approaches, the legacy of liberation and Kuwait’s achievements since 1991 are ones that Kuwait and all the countries that contributed to restoring Kuwait’s freedom can be proud of,” he said.
Ballarat’s visit also provided the opportunity to celebrate Australia and Kuwait’s shared maritime and trading history.
This year marked the 80th anniversary of the voyage of Australian adventurer, Alan Villiers, who travelled by the Kuwaiti boom, Al-Bayan, from the Gulf to East Africa in 1938.
On arriving back in Kuwait in 1939, Villiers spent four months living with the Al-Hamad family in Kuwait City, photographing and filming Kuwaiti life. During this time he also travelled to the pearl banks of the northern Gulf.
His book of the voyage, Sons of Sinbad, and his photographs and films were a remarkable tribute to Kuwait’s seafaring traditions and merchant families, according to Mr Gilbert.
Photographs of Mr Villiers journey were displayed during the event on Ballarat.
“These powerful images capture the daily lives and the hardships of Kuwait’s sea-farers and pearl divers and provide a fine tribute to their skills and endurance. It is almost 80 years to the day Captain Villiers commenced his famous voyage and I can think of a no more appropriate way to mark the occasion than a ship visit to Kuwait by HMAS Ballarat,” he said.
Ballarat visited Kuwait from 1 to 5 December 2018. During her first patrol, the Anzac frigate and her 189-strong crew operated in direct support to Combined Task Force 152, which is responsible for security in the Arabian Gulf.
Ballarat is an Australian warship deployed on Operation MANITOU, which is the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa regions.
There are around 210 ADF personnel currently deployed on Operation MANITOU.