Boarding party getting the job done in the Middle East

Published on LCDR Tracey Bellerby (author), POB Cameron Devenny (photographer), ABIS Sarah Williams (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Darwin (F04)

Able Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Stephanie Norris, left, dressed in full boarding party kit, prepares for a 9mm live shoot off the flight deck of HMAS Darwin. (photo: ABIS Sarah Williams)
Able Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Stephanie Norris, left, dressed in full boarding party kit, prepares for a 9mm live shoot off the flight deck of HMAS Darwin.

HMAS Darwin is working hard conducting maritime security, counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO).

Contributing to Darwin’s mission success is the ability of her boarding party to interdict and board vessels.

Boardings include counter narcotics searches, counter piracy, Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and routine vessel inspections.

It’s just over three months into Darwin’s deployment and the boarding party has already helped seize a large amount of hashish and rescued 13 seamen adrift after their vessel collided with another.

HMAS Darwin closes to assist shipwrecked fishermen.

HMAS Darwin closes to assist shipwrecked fishermen.

Darwin’s Commanding Officer, Commander Terence Morrison said “The crews that make up the boarding party are well trained and have worked very hard to achieve their success.”

“Of course it takes a whole ship to support our mission; however it is in the boarding party where the real sharp end is.”

The boarding party is divided into two teams, red and black, each consisting of 12 personnel, both male and female. Each team is further broken down into six groups of two personnel.

Each group has a specific role during boardings, conducting their duties with little to no direction.

This means boarding teams operate efficiently and are capable of altering their composition depending on the situation and the vessel to be boarded.

Darwin’s Black Team boarding party officer Lieutenant Ben McGrath says operational experience is invaluable.

“Our core skills and knowledge are developed with each boarding, which is essential in enhancing our capability.”

Darwin is deployed in support of Operation SLIPPER and is the 57th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy warship to the MEAO since the first Gulf War in 1990.