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Marine fleet results

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In the past 18 months marine fleet vessels have been involved more than 30 operational incidents on behalf of Customs and other Commonwealth and State agencies.

These have included:

• Detection and apprehension of 16 Australian fishing vessels for offences under Commonwealth and State fisheries laws.

• Detection and apprehension of seven foreign fishing vessels for offences under Commonwealth fisheries laws.

• The interception of three vessels allegedly carrying illegal entrants. Customs vessels escorted two of these through Torres Strait until relieved of their escort duties by Royal Australian Navy vessels. The ships were subsequently escorted into international waters. A Chinese vessel carrying 139 people, that ran aground

in Torres Strait, was escorted by the Customs vessel Wauri to Thursday Island. The crew and passengers were ferried ashore and handed over to Australian government officials.

• The apprehension of 10 foreigners at Ashmore Reef. On instructions from Coastwatch, the Customs vessel Andrew Fisher apprehended an Indonesian fishing vessel carrying four Indonesian crew members and six Bangladeshi passengers. Customs officers discovered that the fishing vessel was unseaworthy and subsequently transferred the 10 foreigners to the Andrew Fisher and took

them to Broome where other government officials took responsibility for them.

• Narcotic seizures exceeding 18 tonnes. In December 1996, ‘Operation Calculate’ resulted in the seizure of eight tonnes of cannabis resin on board the yacht ‘Highlander’ in Queensland. Three Customs vessels, the Delphinus, the Sir William Lyne and the H.M. Robinson, were involved in the surveillance and boarding operations. In December 1997 Customs vessels were also involved in another seizure of 10 tonnes of cannabis resin during ‘Operation Cyclops’. In this case the drugs were transferred from a foreign freighter to an Australian fishing vessel 200 nm off the coast of Port Stephens, NSW. The Sir William Lyne and the

Delphinus were both involved in the surveillance and interception of the fishing vessel carrying the drugs.

• Four search and rescue operations. These involved helping two disabled yachts, one in heavy seas off the Tasmanian coast and the other at Ashmore Reef off the north-west coast of Western Australia, and towing them to the safety of the nearest port. An Australian fishing vessel off the WA coast, which called for assistance with mechanical problems, was towed into Kuri Bay, and a small disabled boat in Torres Strait which activated an electronic help signal was located and towed to Yam Island.

Government agencies assisted by the marine fleet included: Customs, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Environment Australia, other State agencies, the Australian Federal Police and various State police forces.

The Wauri, alongside a Chinese vessel intercepted in Torres Strait on 13 July 1997, carrying 139 suspected illegal entrants.