Australia — HMAS Broome averts maritime disaster

The men and women of the Roy­al Aus­tralian Navy Patrol Boat, HMAS Broome, suc­cess­ful­ly pre­vent­ed an envi­ron­men­tal and mar­itime cat­a­stro­phe off Papua New Guinea overnight by pro­vid­ing assis­tance to a com­mer­cial con­tain­er ship, which had lost pow­er and was drift­ing towards Rage­lapra Reef.

At approx­i­mate­ly 9.20am yes­ter­day (24 Octo­ber, 2011), the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safe­ty Author­i­ty request­ed Defence sup­port in aid­ing the con­tain­er ves­sel MV Vega Fynen, which had lost engine pow­er and was drift­ing towards a chart­ed reef, 100 nau­ti­cal miles south-east of Port Moresby. 

Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of HMAS Broome Com­man­der John Navin said his Ship’s Com­pa­ny were in final prepa­ra­tions to berth at the PNG town of Alotau when the new orders were received. 

“The crew took the change of task in their stride as our Patrol Boat turned away from port and increased speed,” Com­man­der Navin said. 

“The ren­der­ing of assis­tance for the safe­ty of life at sea is at the fore­front of every mariner’s ethos.” 

On receiv­ing the call, HMAS Broome sailed 146 nau­ti­cal miles at best speed to ren­dezvous with the 13,000-ton MV Vega Fynen and made con­tact with its cap­tain to offer assis­tance to his crew should they be required to evac­u­ate their ship. 

While on sta­tion, HMAS Broome’s com­mand team con­firmed MV Vega Fynen’s drift rate and direc­tion and worked to devel­op options to pre­vent the almost cer­tain ground­ing on the reef. 

Com­man­der Navin said his team planned a stern-to-stern tow option in the hope they could at least arrest the drift of MV Vega Fynen until com­mer­cial sal­vage ves­sels and tugs arrived. 

“The tow line was passed to the MV Vega Fynen only 700 metres before the ship entered unchart­ed waters as the sun was set­ting,” Com­man­der Navin said. 

Despite the MV Vega Fynen’s large size and ton­nage, HMAS Broome was able to arrest the norther­ly drift of the con­tain­er ves­sel, and slow­ly pull it south and away from imme­di­ate danger. 

The Armi­dale Class Patrol Boat, dwarfed by the com­mer­cial car­ri­er, kept the ship under tow for six hours until pass­ing the tow line to a com­mer­cial tug, bet­ter suit­ed for the role. 

After suc­cess­ful­ly hand­ing over the job, the Ship’s Com­pa­ny of HMAS Broome sailed back to Alotau to con­tin­ue with their planned activities. 

This morn­ing they awoke to a con­grat­u­la­to­ry mes­sage from Port Moresby’s Res­cue Coor­di­na­tion Centre. 

The sig­nal high­light­ed that the actions of HMAS Broome almost cer­tain­ly avert­ed a major envi­ron­men­tal disaster. 

“The mea­sured risks tak­en in this dan­ger­ous evo­lu­tion proved of great ben­e­fit and not only held the MV Vega Fynen but slow­ly brought her back into deep­er waters,” the mes­sage stated. 

Com­man­der Navin said his Ship’s Com­pa­ny respond­ed to the task at hand and achieved a com­pli­cat­ed task on a scale that had not been attempt­ed by an Armi­dale Class Patrol Boat previously. 

“The crew are proud of their achieve­ment and sat­is­fied that their train­ing and skills were put to good use to save lives and save the envi­ron­ment,” Com­man­der Navin said. 

“The Mas­ter of the MV Vega Fynen was very appre­cia­tive of the efforts of HMAS Broome and expressed his sin­cere thanks once we had recov­ered our tow­ing equipment.” 

HMAS Broome was on its way to vis­it Alotau, PNG, to par­tic­i­pate in Exer­cise Par­adise 2011, when it was tasked to assist in the search and res­cue mission. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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