Navy opens frigate probe

BORDER protection operations being undertaken by Ballarat flagship HMAS Ballarat came to an abrupt halt at the weekend after the ship ran aground at Christmas Island.
Anzac class frigate HMAS Ballarat became stuck in waters off the island, about 2600 kilometres north-west of Perth in the Indian Ocean, about 4pm on Saturday.
The $500 million ship, commissioned in a sunset ceremony at Docklands in Melbourne last June, was involved in border protection activities, dubbed Operation Relex II, at the time.
Nobody was injured in the grounding.
Navy operations commander Captain Stuart Mayer of Maritime Command said yesterday that while the ship's rudder and propeller were damaged in the incident, the extent of the damage was still being assessed.
An investigation into the grounding was also being conducted, he said.
"It would be improper for me to postulate what the cause of the event was.
"All we know is that they were conducting routine operations and we're now conducting an investigation to determine the exact sequence of events."
Cpt Mayer said the 3600-tonne ship ran aground in the vicinity of Flying Fish Cove, typically a sand and coral area.
The ship was connected to buoys yesterday and being assessed for damage, he said.
"Ballarat was part of normal operations in support of northern border security," he said.
"The exact events at the time are part of the investigation.
"As we start developing those facts, we will release them in due course."
Cpt Mayer would not speculate on whether the ship was supposed to be in the area when the incident occurred.
"It's improper for me to speculate on whether it's proper or improper until I know the actual circumstances that led to the grounding," he said.
"We intend waiting until we have a full picture of that before we speculate on those sorts of things."
All personnel on board the ship were safe, but "quite tired after a busy day".
Ships like the HMAS Ballarat generally carried about 180 crew members, a Navy spokeswoman said.
The Navy was continuing to asses the ship's ability to sail for repairs.

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