27 September, 2022
The Government of Tuvalu had requested the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to conduct reconnaissance of reported explosive remnants of war (ERW). With help from HMNZS Manawanui, HMNZS Matataua and crew, plus United States Marine Corps (USMC) and Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) divers embedded with the Australians and New Zealanders, Operation Render Safe got underway in early September.
Beginning at Funafuti Lagoon, Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) military hydrographers surveyed areas of interest and the combined dive team investigated the sea floor. After finding no ordnance in the Funafuti area, the ship sailed on to Nanumea, where all of the ordnance finds were located.
Commander of ADF Operations in the South West Pacific Major General Scott Winter said identifying World War II-era munitions in the Pacific is a vital step towards reducing the indiscriminate impact of ERW on our Pacific family.
“This has been a valuable opportunity to work together with Tuvaluan authorities and our partners from New Zealand, the United States and Canada, and for our crews to share knowledge whilst working in support of the Pacific family,” Major General Winter said.
“The team identified a significant number of ERW during the operation, enabling us to conduct further planning in preparation for the safe disposal of these remnants, but also minimises the risk to personnel and vessels travelling within Tuvalu waters.”
The successful operation saw the combined contingent scan more than 2.5 square kilometres of seabed over 47 hours of dive time, identifying 22 AN-M43 500 pound aerial bombs and four .50 calibre small arms dumps in depths of 10-18 metres.
Commanding Officer of HMNZS Manawanui, Commander John McQueen, said Operation Render Safe was the first opportunity for the ship to operate with an embarked international force with combined detached diving and military hydrography elements.
“Operation Render Safe has been a successful event for us, as we proved capability, enhanced our ability to operate with our multinational partners, and were able to make a real difference to our Pacific neighbours.”
The disposal of ERW identified during reconnaissance activities in Tuvalu is currently planned for 2023.
Operation Render Safe