Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, and Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Melissa Price MP, welcomed the return of Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat to Australia, following a highly successful nine-month deployment as part of Operation MANITOU.
Minister Reynolds praised the counter-terrorism efforts of Ballarat’s 200 officers and sailors, who have worked in the Combined Maritime Forces to seize nearly 20 tonnes of illicit drugs worth an estimated value of AUD$1.41 billion.
“HMAS Ballarat has played a significant role in promoting safety and security in the Middle East maritime environment by directly reducing the source of funding to terrorist organisations,” Minister Reynolds said.
The warship also seized and destroyed nearly half a million rounds of small arms ammunition and 697 bags of chemical fertiliser, which had a potential use in the manufacture of improvised explosives.
“Ballarat’s ship company has worked tirelessly and professionally and we should be proud of their achievements,” Minister Reynolds said.
Joined by Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead AM, RAN, Minister Price thanked the families of the ship’s company who gathered at Fleet Base West to welcome their return.
“To the family and friends who are gathered here today, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for your ongoing support over the nine-month deployment,” Minister Price said.
Ballarat has spent the last 260 days deployed patrolling the area from the North Arabian Gulf to the Southern Indian Ocean.
“Her service has been exemplary, seizing more than a billion dollars of illegal drugs and nearly half a million rounds of small-arms ammunition.
“Now we look to the next generation of defence capability. That’s why the Australian Government is investing $35 billion into the Future Frigate Program, to ensure the men and women of the Royal Australian Navy have the best capability on offer,” Minister Price said.
Ballarat has integrated with two carrier strike groups and taken part in several high-end warfighting exercises with the navies of the US, UK, France and Gulf Cooperation Council states.
Commanding Officer HMAS Ballarat, Commander Paul Johnson RAN, said the ship’s company worked hard to maintain a high level of operational capability.
“The work on-board Ballarat can be prolonged and arduous and it really is a whole of ship effort to sustain the boarding parties and achieve what we did,” Commander Johnson said.
“Disposing of the illegal narcotics provides tangible evidence that we’re making a difference.
“There’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes with successful seizures and I thank the ship’s company for their flexibility and resilience throughout the deployment.”
Ballarat’s illicit drug seizures included approximately 19.76 tonnes of hashish, 1.41 tonnes of heroin and 50 kilograms of methamphetamine and amphetamine.
This was the 67th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel in the region since 1990.
Operation MANITOU is the name for the Australian Government’s contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East Region.