RAN Was Nowhere Near Sinking Boat
Letter to Canberra Times
16 April 2002
I refer to the letters from P. Rafferty-Taylor and Klaas Weldring (CT, April 10). These letters seek an explanation as to why a Royal Australian Navy warship was not in a position to assist a vessel carrying asylum-seekers to Australia that sank in Indonesian territorial waters on October 19 resulting in tragic loss of life.
As I informed the Senate Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident on April 4, in intercept operations we cannot operate in another country's territorial waters therefore our ships were operating patrol lines much closer to Australia. In this case, the first that Navy knew that this vessel had sailed was when advised through the search and rescue organisation in Canberra on October 22 that this vessel might have foundered in the vicinity of Sunda Strait. At that time our nearest ship was about 150 miles away.
Rest assured that the Royal Australian Navy is a highly professional organisation with an international reputation for excellence and, like all sea-going mariners, RAN personnel place the highest value on the safety of life at sea and will be always compelled to respond, when able, to those in distress.
I would appreciate it if you could publish this letter to correct any misunderstanding among your readers.