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Australian and French warships unite to promote maritime security


HMAS Newcastle and FS Somme on patrol in the Middle East Area of Operation as part of Combined Task Force 150.

Nearly 100 years after France and Australia fought side by side on the Somme battlefields, HMAS Newcastle and FS Somme areunited in their security efforts in the Middle East Area of Operation (MEAO).

The two warships conducted coordinated maritime security operations over a five-day period in the Somali Basin as part of the multi-national Combined Task Force 150. 

Crew members from Newcastle, under the command of Paul O’Grady and Somme, under the command of Yann Le Roux, boarded and search many Arab fishing vessels, dhows, in which a quantity of narcotics were found, seized and destroyed.

The crew of Newcastle coordinated the operation for the period, manoeuvring both ships to locate suspicious vessels, positioning under the cover of darkness and conducting boardings from first light. Somme’s helicopter, an Alouette III, provided surveillance and overwatch support to the boardings under Newcastle’s control.

The ships integrated on a personal level with Newcastle’s boarding teamsoperating with both French and Djibouti translators to provide language skills for communicating with the dhow crews.

On the dhows, one of Newcastle’s Boarding Officers LEUT David Osborne benefited from having the French nationals at hand.

“With Newcastle in her first patrol in the MEAO, it was a fantastic opportunity to draw on the experience of the seasoned French Boarding Party Officer,” LEUT Osborne said.

LEUT Laura Ball another of Newcastle’s Boarding Officers was equally supportive.

“Having the translators embedded in our team meant that we quickly built a very close relationship, especially after returning back to Newcastle on the completion of the boardings and talking through the events and what they had seen in the previous several months of operations,” she said.

“This knowledge is invaluable and something that you can’t simulate in Jervis Bay,” she added.

Having completed their time together, Newcastle took the opportunity to replenish its fuel supply from Somme before the warships parted company on 12 June.

HMAS Newcastle is deployed to the MEAO as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), which is responsible for maritime security operations in the Gulf region, the maritime environment around the Horn of Africa, and counter piracy/terrorism operations in the Gulf of Aden.