Statement HMAS Maryborough
21 March 2019
The article in today’s Australian (Near-tragic boat blaze ignites urgent safety, training review, P7) does not accurately reflect the circumstances of the incident, and fails to properly acknowledge the continuous improvement process which our Navy people continually undertake to ensure the safety and seaworthiness of our ships.
As the professional head of our Navy, I know that Maryborough’s engine room fire did not become a major tragedy thanks to the swift, professional and selfless response of the Maryborough’s crew. The crew drew upon their knowledge, followed procedures, invoked their training and exercised sound judgement in all their actions. As a result, the men and women onboard were able to return safely to their families, and through their determination and commitment and the support of many other elements of our Navy, ensured that Maryborough returned to operational service.
The subsequent report into the incident by the Safety Bureau was thorough, and makes clear that the Ship’s Company had undertaken daily damage control exercises and provided an ‘exceptional’ response to the incident. The professionalism and training of Maryborough’s crew ensured that a potentially serious situation was avoided.
The use of mobile phones to provide initial reporting of the incident is yet another example of the crew using their initiative and judgement to ensure timely and accurate information was passed to the headquarters. The crew were trained locally on operation of the communications equipment onboard prior to the incident. As an additional measure, formal training in the use of Harris radios is now provided to all RAN communications personnel as part of their initial entry training.
The Australian public and Navy personnel can rest assured that all material, training and procedural issues identified in the Investigation Report have been fully addressed. As with every incident, the lessons drawn from Maryborough inform future training scenarios across our Navy.
The 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours list formally recognised the performance of the Damage Control Officer in HMAS Maryborough, Chief Petty Officer Michael O’Donnell, through the award of a Conspicuous Service Cross for his professionalism, and performance in leading the Maryborough’s response to this incident. I had the opportunity to visit HMAS Maryborough in December 2018, and spoke with Chief O’Donnell and Maryborough’s Ship’s Company and I was left in no doubt as to the professionalism and commitment of that team and their remarkable actions on the day of the fire, and every day since.
This statement is attributable to the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan AO, RAN