On 13 December 2014, Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Toowoomba headed home after a very successful four month deployment as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter-terrorism task force, Combined Task Force CTF-150. Her tour as part of CMF has been nothing short of outstanding, finishing another successful deployment by the Royal Australian Navy.
During her farewell ceremony, held in Victoria, Seychelles, on 10 December, Rear Admiral Trevor Jones Royal Australian Navy, AO, CSC, Commander Joint Task Force 633, praised the crew for their hard work: “Your deployment saw you away from home for six months, your mission saw you in some of the most dangerous waters in the world and each one of you has played an important part in targeting the funding of international terrorism and piracy. I commend you on your deployment. You have done Australia proud.”
HMAS Toowoomba arrived on station in the Middle East on 10 August 2014, her Ship’s Company ready and eager to conduct maritime security operations in international waters to deter terrorists from using the sea for illegal activities and to promote overall peace and security in the region. During her tour, the ship has operated across the region, from the Gulf of Aden to the Gulf of Oman and a vast section of the Indian Ocean from the Makran coast to East Africa.
Her crew safely conducted 20 challenging boardings, spending more than 240 hours inspecting dhows transiting the region. Toowoomba’s first success came on 18 September when she intercepted a dhow carrying 5.6 tonnes of cannabis resin worth US$232 million. Toowoomba’s success continued with two further interceptions in quick succession on 17 and 20 November, resulting in the discovery of 388kg and 324kg of heroin hidden in void spaces. The total 712kg was worth US$236 million.
Commodore Brian Santarpia from the Royal Canadian Navy and recently appointed Commander Combined Task Force 150, under which Toowoomba executed its mission, was honoured to join Rear Admiral Jones in congratulating Toowoomba’s team. He said: “Toowoomba has definitively been the backbone of CTF-150 operations over the past few months; Australia can once again be very proud of your remarkable success. Bravo Zulu to you all and fair winds and following seas for your transit back home.”
Commander Cath Hayes, the ship’s Commanding Officer, said that the crew had done a professional, efficient and effective job throughout the deployment: “I am extremely proud of the combined efforts of each of the 191 members of Toowoomba’s team. Working with the CMF team under CTF-150 has been very rewarding, the excellent level of cooperation ensured that Toowoomba was positioned to intercept contacts of interest and achieve the operational successes that we did.”
While Toowoomba’s primary mission has been maritime security operations, the frigate has also contributed to the safety and security of the region by rendering assistance to a dhow which had suffered propulsion failure and had almost run out of water. The professionalism of Toowoomba’s crew delivered an immediate response by transferring 160 litres of water to the ship and offering assistance to conduct repairs.
HMAS Toowoomba was the second Royal Australian Navy ship to deploy under CTF-150’s command as part of Operation Manitou (formerly Operation Slipper), the Australian Government’s contribution to the international effort to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.