Another navy ship to be sunk off the Queensland coast

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By Felicity Caldwell

Scuba divers and snorkellers will soon be able to explore a navy ship from the bottom of the ocean, when it is scuttled to create an artificial reef.

Ex-HMAS Tobruk was launched in March 1980, as the Royal Australian Navy’s first purpose-built amphibious heavy lift ship, and was deployed on 26 major operations, including to Bougainville, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, sailing more than 1.7 million kilometres.

Drone aerial views of the decommissioned ex-HMAS Tobruk, in readiness for becoming an artificial reef.

Drone aerial views of the decommissioned ex-HMAS Tobruk, in readiness for becoming an artificial reef. Photo: Supplied

Over a 34-year career, the ship provided heavy-lift capabilities to transport equipment and personnel, and could transport up to 18 tanks and provide accommodation for up to 520 troops.

It was decommissioned in July 2015.

The Tobruk is expected to be scuttled in the waters of Wide Bay, between Bargara/Burnett Heads and Hervey Bay, by mid-2018 and will allow recreational scuba divers and snorkellers to explore it through bookings with selected commercial operators.

The Queensland government has opened expressions of interest for operators to provide recreational diving activities at the site within the Great Sandy Marine Park.

Great Barrier Reef Minister Leeanne Enoch said the dive site would attract tourists from across Australia and the world, with divers able to explore the nooks and crannies of an historic ex-navy ship.

“The Fraser Coast is lucky enough to boast a vast portfolio of nature-based tourist sites, including K’gari (Fraser Island), Mon Repos turtle rookery, the world-renowned Hervey Bay whale watching area, and the wetlands in the Great Sandy Strait,” she said.

Ex-HMAS Tobruk project manager Steven Hoseck said the dive site would be accessible to private divers in their own vessel through a booking system, so they could see the 127 metre-long ship.

“Tobruk served the country for 34 years, and it’s fitting for the ship to serve the rest of her time from beneath the ocean’s surface, providing a unique experience for divers,” Mr Hoseck said.

“She will add to the region’s many existing natural attractions and will support marine ecosystems in the waters of Wide Bay, which will make the dive site even more spectacular to visit.”

Since the late 1990s, six Royal Australian Navy vessels have been scuttled across Australia.

Ex-HMAS Tobruk will be the first “landing ship heavy” to be scuttled in Australian waters, and will provide a unique dive experience, different to the scuttled destroyers and frigates, as it is characterised by a large cargo hold that runs almost the entire length from stern to bow.

The upper rear decks are anticipated to be in water shallower than 18 metres, appealing to open water divers and snorkelers, while the internal tank deck is anticipated to be 25 metres deep, appealing to advanced and technical divers.

A Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service spokeswoman said the amount of artificial reef compared with natural reef in Queensland was minimal.

The Great Barrier Reef is 2300 kilometres long and has an area of 348,700 square kilometres.

“Artificial reefs encompass purpose-built reefs as well as historical shipwrecks,” the spokeswoman said.

The Queensland government has installed the Harry Atkinson, West Peel, East Coochie, Wild Banks, North Moreton, South Stradbroke and Turner artificial reefs in Moreton Bay.

In the Great Sandy Marine Park, the government installed the Simpson and Hardie artificial reefs, while at Mooloolaba, it created the ex-HMAS Brisbane artificial reef.

There are also other artificial reefs in Queensland that were installed by independent organisations.


Source :  The Brisbane Times

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