Clearance divers from around the world begin their training exercise at HMAS Creswell. (Supplied: Australian Navy)
Disarming sea mines a dangerous but crucial business when it comes to ensuring the safety of trade routes.
Eighteen nations from around the world who rely on ocean trade routes have gathered at HMAS Creswell in Jervis Bay to take part in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium this week, focussed on sea mine management.
The world’s best navy clearance divers are sharing technology and resources to ensure all nations who trade via ocean routes are equipped to deal with sea mines.
While it is unusual to find live mines these days, remnants of war are scattered around the Pacific and clearance divers must be trained for all contingencies.
Activities at the symposium include disarming mines, deploying mine countermeasure divers, using autonomous underwater vehicles and live demolitions which are being conducted on a weapons range nearby.
Navy clearance divers leap into Jervis Bay to conduct sea mine detonation and disarming exercises. (Supplied: Australian Navy)
The chief of the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Squadron, Commander Brett Dawe, said the exercises encourage cooperation between all nations that may someday be involved in mine warfare.
“Everyone is able to practise and swap skill sets involved in finding, searching for and getting rid of mines and underwater hazards,” Commander Dawe said.
“Each nation comes with different viewpoint and skill set.
“It’s fascinating to get together for challenges with people as like-minded and passionate about mine warfare as us.”
Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Chile, the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Canada are just some of the nations involved.
Sea drones are a priority
Sea drones, also known as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), work in a similar way to regular drones — however they use sonar beams instead of a camera.
They are able to detect sea mines without divers needing to be deployed until it is time to disarm them.
They are one of the key new technologies being trialled at the symposium, with New Zealand leading the way as master operators.
Able Seaman Ethan Brooks is on Australia’s mine warfare team and said being able to observe how other nations use the AUVs has been beneficial for the locals.
“The Singaporeans and New Zealanders have the same piece of equipment so its interesting to see how they use it,” he said.
Clearance divers from 18 nations are trialling the latest autonomous underwater vehicles. (Supplied: Australian Navy)
“Operating these machines is something you can’t do in the civilian world yet.
“It’s all new technology for us.”