Media release from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Australian Border Force

Officers assigned to Maritime Border Command (MBC), the multi-agency maritime taskforce within the Australian Border Force (ABF), responded to two unusual taskings in recent days, recovering an unmanned ocean research glider and a potentially dangerous fish aggregation device (FAD).

On 5 April, MBC received a request to assist in locating an ocean research glider that had failed to return to Christmas Island after its battery failed.

The glider was being operated by the Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of East Anglia in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology, to investigate ocean-atmosphere interactions in the region.

ABFC Cape Nelson conducted a detailed search of the area and located the glider floating on the surface approximately 15 nautical miles north of Christmas Island. The glider will be returned to the Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences to enable their research to continue.

On 6 April, officers assigned to MBC also responded to a request from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to recover a large floating steel object.
Several MBC Dash-8 surveillance aircraft had sighted the 400 kilogram, three-metre long object and HMAS Albany was tasked to recover it and hand it over to AFMA contractors in Darwin for disposal.

Commander MBC, Rear Admiral Lee Goddard, said the operations highlight the variety of work involved in protecting Australia’s civil maritime security.

“Whether it’s search and recovery operations or removing potentially dangerous navigation hazards, our aircraft, vessels and crew are continuously monitoring our waters and stand ready to respond,” Rear Admiral Goddard said.

“These activities also demonstrate the effectiveness of our multi-agency approach to maritime security, utilising both ABF and Australian Defence Force assets, strategically placed to quickly respond to information provided by our surveillance assets and partner agencies.

“Both these objects posed potential risks to vessels travelling in Australian waters and, of course, the research glider holds important scientific data. I’m pleased we have been able to resolve both these issues.”

AFMA’s General Manager of Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said there’s been a jump in the number of foreign FADs drifting into Australian waters recently and we’re working with our Indonesian counterparts to better understand why.

“The size of the FAD posed a risk to the safety of vessels travelling in northern Australian waters, as well as also presenting risks to fragile marine habitats, if it were to wash ashore,” Mr Venslovas said.

“The FAD had to be manoeuvred by crane from HMAS Albany so it can be disposed of this week.”