Navy and military clearance divers from 18 nations have combined over the past week at HMAS Creswell undertaking vital exercises to ensure sea lines of communication for trade and crucial supplies are kept safe.
The Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) Mine Countermeasures and Diving Exercise (MCM DIVEX) is being hosted in Australia for the first time by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) , with more than 160 personnel taking part.
The risk posed by sea mines is the key focus of the exercise based in Jervis Bay.
The exercise, code named DIVEX 18, started May 7 and will wrap up this Friday, May 18.
Commander of Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Squadron, Commander Brett Dawe, said teams from 18 nations were spending the fortnight learning from each other’s experiences.
“Each nation taking part in the exercise relies heavily on our sea lines of communication for trade and crucial supplies,” Commander Dawe said.
“Safeguarding these critical trade routes against the threat posed by sea mines is the primary focus for all involved in this exercise.
“Every nation involved has an interest in this.”
The exercise focuses on a wide array of activities including the deployment of mine countermeasures divers, autonomous underwater vehicles, live demolitions and mine exploitation activities.
“The RAN’s Mine Warfare and Clearance Diver personnel are highly trained and respected for their professionalism and broad skill set,” CMDR Dawe said.
“Our guests from the Pacific region and beyond also bring with them experiences and technology we can all learn from.”
Personnel from Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and the US are actively taking part in the exercises, while personnel from Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Thailand and Tonga are acting as observers.
“This is a really rewarding, exciting and rare opportunity to get such a diverse array of nations together,” CMDR Dawe said.
“They are all like-minded professionals, who are all about minesweeping - concentrating on searching for, finding and getting rid of mines and underwater hazards to keep sea lines of communication open and safe.
“It is a really exciting opportunity.”
As well as coming together day in day out for the exercise, the majority of the personnel are also staying together in a giant tent city at HMAS Creswell.
“We have more than 40 tents erected at the base, making for a very good, social atmosphere,” CMDR Dawe said.
“As well as camping together, they are playing sport together, eating together.
“One of the main aims of the exercise is to build relationships and that is certainly being achieved.”
The exercises are being carried out in a number of different location in Jervis Bay, with divers tasked with finding mines, working to diffuse and detonate mines, while also battling the various environmental challenges the Bay presents.
The live explosives side of the exercise is carried out at the Beecroft Weapons Range.
“Our visitors have been very impressed by the training areas we have and appreciative of the support and facilities the RAN has been able to provide,” he said.
“They have found some of the conditions challenging, especially the water temperatures in Jervis Bay which are a lot colder than what many are used to.
“There is also the different marine environment and animals they are not used to working with.”
The WPNS was founded in 1988 and currently has 21 member nations and six observer nations.
The forum gives regional navies a platform to discuss a broad range of regional security issues and progress measures to improve cooperation and interoperability.
The RAN has worked in close consultation with other government agencies during the exercise to ensure no damage was caused to the Jervis Bay environment.