After six months at sea and over a $1 billion dollars in drug apprehensions, HMAS Melbourne returned to her homeport of Garden Island, Sydney, today.
The crowded wharf of well wishers, which counted among their numbers the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Tony Abbott MP and the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO CSC RAN, cheered her crew of 232 as the ship pulled alongside.
The ship, which set sail in August 2013, spent the Christmas season at sea conducting maritime security operations (MSO) including maritime interception operations (MIO) as part of a coalition force contributing to Operation SLIPPER and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).
Commanding Officer Melbourne, Commander Brian Schlegel says while it was tough being away from their loved ones, the ship was buoyed by the fact that they were making a significant contribution on the world stage.
“During our deployment, Melbourne seized and destroyed drugs, including heroin, meth-amphetamines and cannabis resin, with a street value of over A$1 billion dollars. By removing these drugs from circulation, we have directly impacted the profits of terrorist organisations, which trade drugs to fund their activities,” said CMDR Schlegel.
“We also helped maintain the security of sea lanes for legitimate mariners, apprehending nine pirates off the coast of Somalia in October, after merchant ships reported two piracy attempts,” said CMDR Schlegel.
“The success of our mission is testament to the dedication and hard work of the ship’s company. The boarding party and flight crew in particular did an outstanding job.”
“While it has been great to successfully execute the mission we spent many hours training long and hard for, it’s hard to beat arriving back in Sydney and seeing your loved ones waiting for you. I know the crew appreciate all the support they’ve received from friends and family back home,” said CMDR Schlegel.
Joining the Prime Minister and Chief of Navy on the wharf were a number of other dignitaries, including Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon Stuart Robert, MP, the Federal Deputy Opposition Leader (representing the Federal Opposition Leader), the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Gai Brodtmann, the Federal Member for Wentworth, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, AM CSC RAN and Commander Surface Forces, Commodore Jonathan Mead, AM RAN.
The Deputy Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Commodore Dean McDougall, MNZM, RNZN attended to welcome three sailors from the Royal New Zealand Navy embarked as part of the Australian ship’s company.
The drug interceptions were coordinated by Combined Task Force 150 (CTF150), currently being led by Australian Commodore Darryl Bates AM RAN. CTF150 is working as part of the 30 nation CMF, to defeat terrorism, prevent piracy, reduce illegal trafficking of people and drugs, and promote the maritime environment as a safe place for mariners with legitimate businesses.
This was Melbourne's seventh deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations and the 56th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy Fleet Unit to the region since the first Gulf War in 1990.
More images will be available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20140565.