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February 3, 2011
HMAS Pirie's ship's company have been
praised for their unstinting personal courage
during the rescue of 42 survivors from SIEV
221, which foundered on rocks at Christmas
Island on December 15.
The Armidale Class Patrol Boat sailors put
their own lives at risk in responding to the
tragic incident in which 30 asylum seekers
drowned after their vessel crashed into the cliff
face at Rocky Point.
Pirie was at the forefront of the rescue
effort to save the lives of the men, women
and children affected by the tragedy. The crew
upheld their ship's motto "Mark of Quality"
when, despite strong winds and very rough
seas, they responded to the search and rescue
effort by launching their RHIBs and saving
more people from drowning.
The sailors' bravery and dedication to duty
was publicly acknowledged by VADM Crane
when he addressed gathered media after sail-
ing back to Darwin aboard Pirie.
"The men and women of the Navy and
Army on board Pirie went through an ordeal
most of us will never fully comprehend," CN
"But let me assure you they carried out
their task with professionalism and dedication
every Australian can be proud of."
CN said Navy people were professionals
-- professionals on the sea who know, under-
stand and respect the mariner's fundamental
responsibility to come to the aid of all fellow
mariners who are in danger on the sea.
"This is exactly what the men and women
of Pirie did on that tragic day," VADM Crane
"I've spent the last 24 hours in Pirie and
I've spoken to those who carried out this
extraordinary rescue. Because this sinking will
now be investigated by the Coroner, they are
unable to tell their story for the time being.
For now I must speak for them. I can tell you,
however, that based on what I have observed
and discussed personally with the crew, they
are a very solid and professional team."
Praise for HMAS Pirie
VADM Crane said the sailors involved in
the rescue were in good spirits following what
was obviously a very difficult and emotional
"Navy's task now is to ensure these mem-
bers of our Navy family -- as well as those
from the Army who were also part of the crew
-- are provided with the very best of care and
support as they come to terms with this tragic
In response to speculation about the time
it took for Navy to respond, VADM Crane
said the operational timeline was a matter
that would rightly be examined by ongoing
enquiries, but that Pirie mobilised as soon as
the call for help was made.
"Little is more precious to a professional
mariner than the safety of life at sea," CN
"I'm extremely proud of the way in which
Pirie's ship's company mobilised and then
affected this rescue in such difficult and dan-
To the survivors from SIEV 221 and the
families of those who perished, CN said he
understood the grief they felt was great.
"We share your grief," he said. "We also
have memories of that day that will take a
long time to heal."
CN said the Navy would continue to work
hard to provide assistance to every individual
in need of assistance on the sea.
PROUD: CN VADM Russ Crane and
WO-N Mark Tandy answer ques-
tions at a media conference at HMAS
Coonawarra after sailing back to
Darwin aboard HMAS Pirie.
Inset: Pirie alongside.
Photos: POIS Ollie Garside
Sailors put own
lives at risk,
By Hugh McKenzie
CUSTOMS and Border Protection has released its
internal review of the agency's response to the trag-
ic event on December 15 when SIEV 221 found-
ered on rocks at Rocky Point, Christmas Island.
Customs and Border Protection CEO Michael
Carmody said he was pleased the review recognised
the brave efforts of those personnel involved in the dif-
ficult rescue effort.
"In putting their own lives at risk in extremely dan-
gerous circumstances to rescue 41 people from the sea,
the crews of HMAS Pirie and ACV Triton deserve our
highest praise," he said.
The search and rescue was conducted in treacher-
ous weather conditions with prevailing wind and swells
from the north-west causing sea state 4-5 with a wave
height of 3-4 metres, winds gusting up to 40 knots,
occasional thunderstorms and rain squalls reducing
visibility to 150 metres -- conditions which ruled out
boarding operations and made search and rescue very
Pirie's RHIBs put to sea and conducted rescue
operations -- they are able to do so up to sea state 6
when operational status is rated critical.
ACV Triton's RHIBs followed suite.
High on the list of recommendations in the internal
review is that the trial of a land-based radar surveil-
lance system of the northern maritime approaches to
Christmas Island be completed and considered as a
The review noted that Customs and Border
Protection did not have any intelligence that would
indicate SIEV 221 had departed Indonesia or was like-
ly to arrive at Christmas Island around the time it did.
The review included an initial assessment of the
incident and recommended eight immediate actions for
Customs and Border Protection to implement.
Mr Carmody has accepted all eight recommenda-
tions. These include:
That, as part of the normal Border Protection
Command operational planning cycle, the position
of ships, people and materiel is reviewed in light of
the current number of irregular maritime arrivals.
That the current arrangements for reporting of inci-
dents be confirmed and reinforced.
That, in collaboration with relevant agencies,
specific procedures be developed for dealing with
SIEVs arriving directly at Christmas Island in
severe weather conditions.
The review also noted all personnel acted appropri-
ately and exercised good judgment and that all people
involved acted in accordance with policies, processes
and procedures relevant to the exercise of their duties.
Forty-two people survived and 30 deceased were
Personnel from Customs and Border Protection
and the RAN, together with other government officials
and civilians, acted to rescue people from the wrecked
Action has begun to implement the recommenda-
tions and all are expected to be in place by June 30.
The review can be read in full at http://www.customs.
By CPL Rob Serafin
CPO Al Breeze is $36,950 better off after taking out
the monster Navy Raffle Christmas Draw conducted at
The HMAS Harman sailor was on leave when he got
the good news, which came at the perfect time before
CPO Breeze said he was building a house in Bega and
funds were getting tight, but now he was three months
ahead of schedule.
"I was given the option of a car or the cash. I chose
the cash, which was pretty timely given we are building a
house," he said.
The raffle was run by the RAN Central Canteens Fund
RANCCF Sales and Marketing Manager Jak Goudman
said the money raised was reinvested into the Navy com-
munity, in particular the messes.
"Our next plan is to look into free WiFi for the base
messes, canteens and coffee shops, which will encourage
profits for these facilities and improve these social areas,"
Mr Goudman said.
Additional draws are planned for 2011 to complement
the $5000 draw every pay fortnight.
Since its inception just over 12 months ago, the raf-
fle has produced 29 winners and given away more than
$175,000 in prize money.
Lucky Chief's Christmas gift
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