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AHS Centaur search begins.

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Prime Minister of Australia

Media Release

Joint Media Release with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh - AHS Centaur Search Begins

19 March 2009

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh today announced that respected international dive company Blue Water Recoveries will manage the search for the torpedoed World War 2 Australian Hospital Ship AHS) Centaur.

Blue Water Recoveries’ proven deep-sea specialty in research, location and filming of shipwrecks proved the winner of the tender process with the six-member intergovernmental joint steering committee.

Blue Water Recoveries played a key role in last year’s finding of HMAS Sydney II.

The AHSCentaur, brightly lit and clearly marked as a hospital ship, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine south east of Cape Moreton in May 1943. The Centaur caught fire and sank withinn minutes. Of the 322 persons on board, only 64 survived.

Estimates are that the AHS Centaur rests at depths of up to two to three kilometres.

Mr Rudd said finding the Centaur would complete the story of one of Australia’s and Queensland's greatest maritime disasters.

“If the search is successful, suitable memorial activities will be undertaken to acknowledge AHS Centaur’s resting place and it will be duly declared as an historic shipwreck under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 in recognition of its social and historical significance to all Australians,” Mr Rudd said.

Ms Bligh thanked the Prime Minister for responding to her request to undertake the search.

“This is an important part of the State’s history and for the sake of those who died, their families and loved ones it is right that we try to find its resting place,” Ms Bligh said.

The Project Manager’s first responsibility will be to develop a detailed Project Plan which will outline the likely search area, the timeline for the search, and the estimated costs of the project.”

Once the search area has been best defined, a tender process will then be undertaken to contract an appropriate search vessel and equipment. It is envisaged that the search could begin as early as November this year.

A Reference Working Group, made up of the Steering Committee’s Chair, Department of Defence representatives, Blue Water Recoveries (Project Manager), Centaur Association representatives, RSL and historian Captain Foley will convene later this month.

Blue Water’s other successful searches include HMS Hood, flagship of the British Royal Navy sunk in 1941 by the German battleship Bismarck ; the Lucona, a cargo ship sunk by a time bomb as part of an Austrian insurance fraud scheme; and the Rio Grande a German Blockade Runner sunk in WWII and found at a depth of 5,762 metres.

The Rudd Government is matching Queensland’s $2 million commitment for the search.

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