On December 2 2016, Federal Defence Personnel Minister Dan Tehan announced the HMAS Tobruk would be sunk in the Wide Bay area between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.
The Bundaberg and Fraser Coast councils mounted a hard-fought campaign after they pledged $1 million each to secure the former landing ship after it was decommissioned in 2015 after 34 years of service. The councils presented the most compelling case that a dive site in this area would deliver the most benefits.
New tourism assets in the region and a world-class dive wreck, it is expected a return upwards of $2 to $4 million a year for decades to come. Which is a much needed economic and tourism boost for the region. This dive wreck will not only bring domestic and international visitors to the region, it will bring much needed long term, sustainable jobs and a future for the next generation.
She is currently moored at the Port of Bundaberg in readiness for the scuttling process to begin. It is likely to take up to two years before ex-HMAS Tobruk is fully prepared, sunk and opened as a dive site in the waters between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.
Currently, the state government is finalising contractors to prepare the vessel. Strict permit conditions regulate the preparation of the ship, which is a consuming process.
The process includes:
- Removing all fuels, oils and greases
- Identifying and removing all hazardous materials, including polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s), asbestos, heavy metals, batteries, chemicals, plastics etc.
- Removing items that could break loose during the scuttling process or be a hazard to divers
- Preparing a safe and interesting dive site to suit different levels of expertise, including cutting diver access holes, removing items that could be a safety hazard (including cabling, non-structural partitions, hatches/doors) and sealing some areas to prevent access for safety reasons
- Designing the scuttling process to ensure the vessel would settle to the seabed with its structural integrity maintained, in an upright position in the correct location, depth and orientation
- Towing to the scuttling site, undertaking final on-site preparations, and scuttling the ship
- Post-scuttling activities, including retrieving debris, clearance dive, and repairing any damage from the scuttling process.
This process is estimated to cost between $6-7 million.
Why ex-HMAS Tobruk
While the Tobruk is comparable in length to many destroyers, it is almost twice the width and given the roll-on roll-off nature of the vessel it lends itself to the most ideal dive opportunity by providing a giant cavernous interior.
Ex-naval vessels are quickly inhibited with diverse marine life, offer an exhilarating diving experiences, and are popular among the diving community.
HMAS Tobruk has had a very distinguished career and it is only fitting she be given a further opportunity to continue to serve the community as a world class dive site for decades to come.
Capable of carrying 3 helicopters, 18 leopard tanks, 40 armoured personnel carriers, up to 520 soldiers and 130 crew, HMAS Tobruk has run emergency errands around the Pacific arena.
The HMAS Tobruk L50 amphibious heavy lift ship saw 34 years of service from 1980 to 2015 and was deployed on 26 major operations including the Middle East, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Bougainville, East Timor and the Philippines. The ships namesake comes from the Siege of Tobruk during the Second World War, when German and Italian forces laid siege to the north African port for 241 days.
Living up to her motto ‘Faithful and Strong’, HMAS Tobruk retired with about 2,000,000 kilometres travelled (equivalent to 40 trips around the world) and countless lives helped.