Home' Navy News : April 1st 2010 Contents 14
ACTION: HMAS Ararat's board
Photos: Michael Brooke
The important role of the Patrol Boat Group and their ACPBs in
border protection has received much public attention recently
following the apprehension of a number of SIEVs operated by
people smugglers and the smash hit TV show, 'Sea Patrol'.
In an effort to further recognise the efforts of the men and women of the
Patrol Boat Group who crew the Fleet's 14 ACPBs, Navy News went on a patrol
with HMAS Ararat to experience Navy's important contribution to border protec-
tion.ACPBs such as Ararat greatly improve the RAN's ability to intercept and
apprehend illegal vessels in a greater range of sea conditions, which will result in
better protection of Australia's coastline and maritime resources.
Assail 6, like all the ACPB crews, conduct eight or nine week long "on watch"
periods, during which time they conduct seven day patrols at sea before return-
ing to HMAS Coonawarra for two days respite.
Assail 6's ("Cut Deep") most recent patrol is presented in diary format to
convey the high tempo of Op Resolute, which is conducted at sea, far from the
view of the public who see 'Sea Patrol' as a snapshot of border protection.
Assail 6, who rotate through HMA Ships Pirie and Ararat, has been tasked
with patrolling Ashmore Reef, where they have apprehended scores of FFVs and
some 20 SIEVs since June 2009.
MONDAY -- 15 February 2010
0900: "Cast off all lines". HMAS Ararat departs HMAS Coonawarra bound for
Ashmore Reef, on a seven day patrol in support of Op Resolute.
1000: 'Hands to Leaving Ship Stations' -- Navy News fails to respond in time
and is piped to muster on the bridge.
1030: In company with HMAS Broome, Ararat conducts a series of ship manoeu-
vre exercises that provides the Officer of the Watch on both ACPBs with an
opportunity to hone their navigation skills. Broome conducts this exercise during
her Work Up (WUP) under the steely gaze of Sea Training Group personnel.
1100: Marinelink in the Bridge detects smoke in the laundry. Ship's company
perform fire drills. Smoke determined to be coming from an iron in the laundry.
1130-1230: Ararat personnel enjoy a lunch prepared by two cooks. The options
are beef-burgers, pasta or cold meats, served with fresh salad. The lunch hits the
spot and boosts our morale.
1230-1600: Ararat's company -- Assail 6 -- conduct maintenance and depart-
1730: Dinner. Cooks serve succulent meal, either spaghetti bolognaise, or grilled
lamb with fresh salad or stir-fried vegetables with soy sauce and honey (yum!).
1800: CO reads 'Bravo Zulu" message from COMNORCOM following
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's visit to Ararat on Saturday, February 13, which
included Mr Abbott and several shadow ministers, including the Minister for
Immigration. This was a fact-finding tour.
1900-2030: Ship evolution -- boarding party rehearsal. To integrate the RAAF
Transit Security Element (TSE), Ararat conducts ship boarding exercises. This is
a learning curve for CPL David Brett, who has only ever been to sea before on a
cruise ship. CO said they must be functional members of the ship's company. They
work alongside the team to develop a rapport with the ship's company.
2030-2130: Man overboard sounded. RAAF's LAC Shayne Robbie is reported
to have fallen overboard after the boarding party exercise. Ararat's company
spring into action with the appropriate drills. The drill is so realistic that Navy
News believes the drill to be a real incident -- "SAFEGUARD".
Navy News emerged from the heads to the deafening PA
announcement, "commence search for man overboard", which
triggered a flurry of frenzied activity by the crew, whose looks
of concentration for the job at hand masked their collective
fear for a lost shipmate.
"TSE member, LAC Robbie, has not been seen since 2030 and
is believed to have fallen overboard -- commence search for
possible man overboard," XO Assail 6, LEUT Matt Warren, said
over the PA.
Assail 6's company responded with great professionalism
by launching the RHIBs and scurrying aft to scan the darkening
horizon with binoculars.
The stern expressions on the faces of the crew suggested
this was nothing short of a life or death matter.
I surveyed the frenzied activity and pitied both Ararat's
crew and the hapless LAC Robbie, who had been working so
hard to get ship shape on the first day of their patrol.
But wait a minute! Hadn't I seen LAC Robbie in the junior
sailors' mess, watching a video, not five minutes ago?
I tentatively approached the XO with the 'news', when he
announced over the PA "man located", which triggered a wave
of frenzied activity on the quarterdeck by sailors with grap-
pling hooks and poles.
I peered over the side to see a RHIB alongside, with someone
in grey working rig laying face down on the floor.
"Is he dead?" I wondered.
But no sooner had several burly sailors flung the limp figure
onto the deck when I saw it was the rescue dummy 'Oscar'. I
then glanced at the person standing next to me, to see it was
LAC Robbie, with a broad smile on his face.
If 'Oscar' was a dummy then so was I. But talk about a realis-
tic training evolution!
TUESDAY 16 February 2010
0700: Guns and Roses herald 'call the hands' to summon sailors from their deep slumber, for
another long, hard day.
0730: Breakfast of cereal and also bacon+beans+mushrooms+croissants. Yum!
0830: Boarding party brief in the junior sailors' mess.
0900: Ops Brief -- noting dispositions of ACPBs and threat scenarios.
0945: Planned fire-fighting drill postponed until 1300 as crew attempt to repair satellite
(email internet) link.
1130-1230: Lunch is served. Consists of nice 'n' spicy beef stir-fry, grilled fish and chips or
1300: Fire drills -- Marinelink operator, CPO James Bishop (Charge), reported 'machinery
defect' in the machinery spaces. An investigation found smoke and fire in the engine spaces.
The engine room secured and head count conducted. The fire was starved of oxygen using
the ship's CO2 drench system and fire-fighters employed to cool the machinery spaces. After
an hour the temperature in the engine room had dropped significantly. The 'attack party' ven-
tured in with hoses to ascertain the blaze was extinguished.
1400: Debrief commences. The CO and XO commented that the response to the hazard was
very professional and enthusiastic. The departments were so very effective because of their
communication, which facilitated the necessary information flow to the Charge and Buffer
as well as for cross-checking between departments. The Boarding Officer, CPO Dean Watkins,
said the alarm raised and setting up of barriers was very quick. They were very quick to use
the hoses to put water on the boat space. He said while the 'Attack Team' was ready in min-
utes, they may find themselves waiting a considerable amount of time before they can enter
the engine room. Perhaps they might be better assisting with the delivery of fire hoses and
other fire-fighting tasks before donning the heavy gear and equipment.
1430: Debrief concludes.
1430: Departmental maintenance and admin.
1730: Sam and Lloyd serve delicious curry sausages that serve to revitalise the tired crew of
1830: Ops brief.
2100: Navy News surrenders to fatigue and retreats to bed, where I curl up into the foetal
position, for a good sleep.
WEDNESDAY 17 February 2010
0645: Call the Hands
0645: We marry up with HMAS Armidale manned by Attack 5, near Ashmore Reef.
0650: LCDR Andrew McAlister and officers embark RHIB for journey to Ararat for a tasty
0720: LCDR McAlister and his officers, as well as Navy News, embark the RHIB for transit
to Armidale, which triggers the start of a day of collective training exercises. Both CMDR
Galloway and LCDR McAlister said collective training was very important because of the
patrols conducted by ACPBs "we tend not to see as much of other boats and our peers as
we used to". So the ACPBs need to maximise the opportunity to maintain 'in-company' skills.
This also means the sharing of professional knowledge and building familiarisation with other
0745-1130: In company with Armidale, Ararat conducts a series of navigation training
1130-1245: Lunch. In Armidale we dine on curried sausages, sausage rolls, cold meats and
fresh salad, served by ABCK Travis Porter.
1245: In company with Armidale, Ararat conducts a series of RAS exercises.
1400: In company with Armidale, Ararat conducts a series of towing exercises.
1534: Ararat outruns Armidale by half a boat length in a one nautical mile sprint race.
1550: Possible radar detection of a Foreign Fishing Vessel (FFV) or Suspected Irregular Entry
Vessel (SIEV). Navy News promptly returns to Ararat. Armidale hands over to Ararat and
returns to Darwin.
1600: Ararat tracks a suspected FFV on radar. By 1630 Ararat is tracking three FFVs on radar.
FFVs within the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ) do not appear to be trawling with
1640: Ararat launches its boarding party in two seaboats into a SIEV or FFV within minutes
-- it's quite remarkable. No apparent illegal conduct.
1700: Boarding party search satisfies CO Ararat that FFVs committing no illegal activities
within the AEEZ.
1730: Dinner. The cooks, 'Snowy' and 'Winnie' get the thumbs up from the famished crew
with their chicken cacciatore and wienner schnitzel.
2130: A sunburnt and exhausted Navy News reporter stumbles off to bed.
THURSDAY 18 February 2010
0910: Man overboard drill -- RHIB launched immediately and Oscar retrieved within min-
utes. Very slick and impressive!
0935: Officers' training -- ship-handing drills.
0940: Sailors' weapon checks.
1055: Coast Watch report a FFV with fishing gear deployed inside the AEEZ. Ararat is given
grid coordinates from Coast Watch to investigate FFV. Ararat launches boarding party to
investigate. ETA 90 mins.
1120: The cooks accommodate the operational tempo and next task by serving an early
lunch of beef olives and cold meat and salads. Another outstanding meal.
1142: Visual contact made with a FFV which is at top speed seeking to escape the AEEZ.
Ararat is abuzz with excitement.
1155: Boarding party led by CPO Dean Watkins launched to investigate the FFV.
1202: Members of boarding party board the FFV. A search secures the FFV and the call is
made to summon Customs officers in nearby Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) for handover
of four Indonesian suspects.
1220: Boarding officer questions the crew. A Customs' RHIB with five members appears on
the scene to render assistance. The search of the 10m x 1m vessel reveals enough evidence
for Customs to decide on apprehending the FFV and its members. They were handed over to
Customs and Ararat continued on her patrol.
1340: XO announces Ararat will investigate a
aircraft to be using fishing nets.
1415: XO says ETA 30 mins.
1455: Boarding party launched in RHIBs ready
ered, following urgent report of SIEV some 34
aircraft report that the vessel is capable of carr
1500: Ararat acknowledges call and heads to
1530: XO announces boarding party to get an
1612: Radar contact with SIEV 104!
1637: Boarding parties launched.
1643: Boarding parties secure SIEV 104, with
reports 45 persons on board. The SIEV contains
1 x GPS. After consultation with HQNORCOM,
Potential Irregular Immigrants (PIIs) on the SIEV
approx midnight, followed by ACV 'Triton', the
4-man holding teams will conduct a 4-hour ho
will also save fuel and reduce operating costs.
HQNORCOM and related authorities that the S
bilges and oil, and therefore a threat to the ma
to be heavily infested with cockroaches.
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