The first 58 evacuees-by-sea from the fire-affected Victorian seaside town of Mallacoota arrived at the Bluescope Steel Wharf in Hastings this morning, delivered to safety by the Royal Australian Navy training ship MV Sycamore. Two dogs and a cat were also evacuated by Sycamore.
The multi-role aviation training vessel is operated by Teekay Shipping in conjunction with the Royal Australian Navy. The ship is part of a Navy task group that departed from Fleet Base East early on New Year’s Day, in support of multi-agency efforts to provide assistance to communities affected by bushfires on the Australian east coast.
Year 11 Student Darcy Brown said it was a relief to feel safe again.
“It was very dark in Mallacoota and we saw the flames in the distance.
“I was very relieved to be out of that situation.
“We have been absolutely spoilt on the ship, excellent food and very comfortable beds.
“A massive thank you to the amazing crew from the Navy and Teekay Shipping for rescuing us,” she said.
MV Sycamore is crewed by civilians from Teekay Shipping, including a Flight Deck Team from OPSTAR, with one Navy Liaison Officer on board.
Initial notice to mobilise was given at approximately 5pm on New Year’s Eve and the ship was able to get underway at 7am on New Year’s Day.
“It’s an honour to contribute to something so important,” the Ship’s Master, Captain Joe Ludik of Teekay Shipping, said
“We were very happy to look after fifty-eight passengers with lunch, dinner and breakfast.
“We’ve even had a couple of passengers joking about leaving a very positive review on our Air BnB site,” he joked.
“In this time of need, most Australians want to help out,” Commander Karl Brinckmann, Navy’s Sycamore Liaison Officer, said.
“We are proud and privileged that we had the opportunity to get involved.
“The ship is very professionally crewed by the team at Teekay Shipping and we are fortunate enough to have some excellent cooks on board.
“The evacuees were very well looked after,” Commander Brinckmann said.
The evacuees were transported from the ship to evacuation centres at Sommerville and Melbourne.
The Mayor of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Sam Hearn is hosting the evacuees at Somerville Recreation Centre.
“It’s a privilege for us to play a small part in the time of national crisis to support people who have been through a horrific experience,” Mayor Hearn said.
“I’ve had lots of calls from members of the community wanting to chip in and this really is a whole community effort,” he added.
After a very short turnaround MV Sycamore will return to Bushfire affected areas of New South Wales and Victoria to continue her support mission.
Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: