After 6 months at sea and over a $1 billion dollars in drug apprehensions, HMAS Melbourne returned to her homeport of Garden Island, Sydney, on March 15th.
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.
“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.
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.
This was Melbourne’s seventh deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations and the fifty-sixth rotation of a Royal Australian Navy Fleet Unit to the region since the first Gulf War in 1990.
|HMAS MELBOURNE- SPECIFICATIONS|
|Speed||over 30 knots|
|Complement||184 + aircrew|
|Range||4,500 nautical miles|
Press Release, March 17, 2014, Image: Australian Navy