Chief of Navy HMAS MAITLAND
19 March 2011
An article in some New Limited papers today (gassed at sea but patrol boats still being used 18 Mar 2011) is inaccurate and misleading.
Here are the facts:
- Modifications on eight of the boats are now complete.
- Two of the boats are currently undergoing modifications
- The four remaining boats will be modified by the end of this year.
The article goes on to state that the austere compartment at the centre of the gas issue, is used to house potential irregular immigrants as part of Operation Resolute. They are transported on deck and under shelter, not in this compartment. When personnel do have to enter the compartment on boats which have yet to be modified, their entry is carefully managed through strict procedures which include the wearing of a device which monitors the gas level. Every measure is taken to safeguard both crew and passengers.
What is not in question is that the gassing of Chief Petty Officer Kurt MacKenzie in 2006 was a tragedy and the circumstances around this event have been and continue to be addressed. CPO MacKenzie is a highly valued member of our Navy family and he continues to receive the best possible medical and administrative care.
I have received some additional advice relating to the circumstances surrounding the serious injury to CPO MacKenzie and as a result I have called for a further inquiry into this incident to assist me in determining the extent to which I can continue to rely on the original inquiry report. This inquiry will be conducted by independent, experienced senior counsel.
In the meantime, rest assured I will not allow our people to be placed at unnecessary risk. The Armidale Class Patrol Boats continue to operate effectively and safely to protect Australia’s maritime interests.
VADM Russ Crane
Chief of Navy