The dangers posed by 16 tonnes of unexploded World War II ordnance have been greatly reduced for the remote community of Torokina on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, following the conclusion of Operation RENDER SAFE 2014.
The Australian Defence Force led mission saw Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and Solomon Islands searching for and safely destroying World War II era munitions.
Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force, Captain Jay Bannister, said Operation RENDER SAFE cleared 109 sites of 2293 items of ordnance that totalled more than 16000 kilograms of explosives.
Working with the Bougainville Police Service and in close consultation with the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the multi-national RENDER SAFE team destroyed the dangerous munitions that had threatened the Torokina community since the end of the war in 1945.
CAPT Bannister said:
It is the largest RENDER SAFE undertaken by the ADF, not just in terms of explosives destroyed but the number of personnel involved — almost 500 in total.
We have received exceptional support from HMAS Choules and the people of the Torokina district in what has been an extremely complex, sustained amphibious operation.
Launching from and supported by HMAS Choules, Operation RENDER SAFE was not only a multinational effort but also involved capabilities and specialist skills drawn from all three ADF services.
CAPT Bannister continued:
The Army EOD technicians really came into their own dealing with the mine-field threat, which I believe is the first time Army have performed that task since the Vietnam war.
Royal Australian Navy personnel worked with the US Navy applying their skills to handling sea mines and underwater disposals while Royal Australian Air Force expertise was of great value when working with the air delivered weapons that were discovered.
While RENDER SAFE’s focus is the removal and safe destruction of dangerous munitions, this year also provided an opportunity for the ADF’s Amphibious Task Group to be put through its paces in an operational environment.
Five months before the operation commenced, a small community engagement team worked with the Autonomous Bougainville Government to educate the local Bougainville people about the RENDER SAFE mission and the dangers posed by the unexploded ordnance.
RENDER SAFE is a continuing peacetime operational commitment to the people of the South West Pacific.
Press release, Image: Australian Department of Defence