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The response to the tragedy
This chapter looks at the immediate response to the tragedy from those
on and around the island, including by the community of Christmas Island and
government agencies both on shore and waterborne, and the after-incident search
and rescue effort that was mounted.
Rescue efforts by Christmas Island residents
Unfamiliar with the conditions and unaware that relative respite from
the strong wind could be found on the east side of the island, SIEV 221 battled
large swells in a bid to reach the nearest part of the island, Rocky Point. When
its engine failed shortly after 5.40am and the boat began drifting toward the rocks,
residents heard screams for help and gathered on the lower base of the cliff.
While gesturing in vain for the boat to stay away from the rocks, residents began
to throw life jackets into the water. There was nothing anyone present on the shore
or the boat could do to prevent the vessel, by now completely at the mercy of
the ocean, from hitting the rocks. The committee received deeply disturbing
evidence of what transpired as the boat, crammed full of men, women and
children, was repeatedly smashed against Christmas Island's jagged rocks by powerful
Photographs taken at the time indicate that the vessel impacted rocks
approximately 800 metres west of its original position when first sighted.
Eight Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers were stationed on Christmas
Island at the time of the tragedy, and all responded. Together with officers
from other agencies, on duty and off, and residents who volunteered, up to 60
people gathered on the rocks and tried their best to haul people out of the
water with ropes tied to life jackets on those struggling to survive a few
Conditions were such that only one person, a man, managed to grab hold of the
rock and scramble to safety.
Efforts to pull others out of the water over the rocks were unsuccessful,
notwithstanding the clearly herculean efforts made by those trying to assist.
Other, lighter, floatation devices thrown into the water were blown back onto
the rocks, away from the people in the water, by strong winds.
Jutting out from the Settlement area of Christmas Island, Rocky Point is
overlooked by a number of houses and hotels. It is not an isolated spot, so it
is not surprising that SIEV 221 could be seen from shore in the early hours of
the morning of 15 December 2010.
Mr Raymond Murray, a resident of Rocky Point and the first person to
arrive at the scene, told the committee of the powerlessness felt by those
witnessing the tragedy unfolding before their eyes:
[T]here was this overwhelming feeling of helplessness.
Standing right out on the edge of the rocks, there were times when that the
boat was closer than you are to me now. I will never forget seeing a woman
holding up a baby, obviously wanting me to take it, and not being able to do
anything. It was just a feeling of absolute hopelessness. It was like it was
happening in slow motion. A wave would pick the boat up and almost hit the
rocks and then go back again, and then finally it was like it exploded.
Mr Murray saw the boat when it was approximately 50 metres from shore.
As others arrived at the scene, they grabbed as many life jackets as they
could—from their own boats, parked nearby, and from local dive operators—and
hurled them as far as they could into the water.
The committee heard that none would have escaped with their lives had it not
been for the life jackets thrown from the rocks above.
Many residents wanted to do more. Mr Murray articulated the particular frustration
he felt as a member of the local Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR):
I am a member of the VMR and, again, sort of feeling
ridiculous that I am a member of this group that is called Volunteer Marine
Rescue, and we had nothing we could do. The boat was not capable of being
launched in that weather, we had no equipment or no nothing. We were a
volunteer rescue group by name only.
As volunteer and professional rescuers did what they could from shore,
it became abundantly clear that throwing big, bulky life jackets into the water
against strong winds was immensely difficult.
The committee notes that the availability of grenade life rings may have
assisted those attempting to get immediate support to people in the water. The
following description of grenade life rings was provided for the committee by
the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government:
The best way I can describe them is this way: think of an old
German potato masher grenade. It has got a bulbous thing, a bit of a handle on
it. You throw it, it hits the water and it has a mechanism that says, 'I am in
water', and it then explodes up into a life ring. It seemed a very good idea.
We had not encountered them as a concept until some of the locals from the
volunteer marine rescue said: 'These have come on the market. They are a good
idea'—this is after the event—'We should get some'.
Although it is impossible to know whether grenade life jackets would
have resulted in a different outcome on the day, the committee notes that the
Department has accepted advice to acquire the equipment.
The committee strongly supports this decision.
Although some resident volunteers described feelings of powerlessness,
the critical contribution made by local residents in trying to pull people from
the water was nonetheless described to the committee as nothing short of
Everyone stepped up. I had a situation where we almost had
too many people wanting to help. Between Myles [Mr Miles Pickett, District
Manager, Customs] and myself, once they saw us take a lead on the front groups
they jumped in behind us to assist. There was certainly no shortage of people on
the shoreline that day and people volunteering and wanting to know what they
could do to assist...there were a couple of people who we pulled back from the
edge of the rocks.
A statement from a survivor, read aloud at a memorial service for the
deceased, echoed this poignantly:
I don't know how to bring forward my feelings and thoughts to
you. It's amazing that people who live together here have such a big heart and
that everyone tried their best to help other humans. This is not just me saying
this to you. It's my family, my relatives over there in Iran and here in the
camp. Here on Christmas Island we have met the kindest people on Earth...From
my heart I appreciate all your help. I hope this never happens again.
Although Rocky Point claimed so many lives, the committee heard that
more might have perished had the boat crashed at a more remote location on the
island, or at a different time:
If SIEV 22l had made it to the island one hour earlier
that day, one kilometre further up the coast, all hands would have been lost
because there would not have been anybody there to hear people cry for help. If
there were somebody there, one kilometre up is a dead zone for cell phones. It
is almost fortunate that it happened where it happened because it got the
greatest amount of people who could have possibly been helped on that day. If
it had happened one week later, most of the residents on that part of the
island would have been gone and there may not have been anywhere near as much
The community's trauma is still apparent, and living so close to the sea
makes it hard to escape reminders of the tragedy and the threat of a
Every time there is a boat out there you worry if the weather
is rough. If the weather is really rough you think, 'Is there a boat out
there?' because we do not want to see this happen again.
The committee recognises the courage and selfless efforts of local
residents on the day of the tragedy. The committee particularly notes the residents'
quick thinking in gathering life jackets to throw into the water. Without
these, many more lives would undoubtedly have been lost. The committee notes from
its time on Christmas Island and evidence taken that many people who chose not to
make submissions to this inquiry were nevertheless impacted deeply by this
tragedy. The efforts and sacrifice of those who chose not to speak to the
committee are nonetheless remembered.
Of particular note to the committee was the importance of volunteers in
responding to the tragedy, but also to the daily lives of Christmas Islanders. In
addition to a significant number of other actions being taken in response to
the tragedy, the committee is aware that the training of volunteers in
emergency management is now under active consideration by the Department of
Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and supports this
Rescue response from government agencies
The rescue response from government agencies, including the AFP, Australian
Customs and Border Protection (Customs) and the ADF, went through a number of
phases. The sighting initiated a move to intercept the SIEV, which increased in
tempo once it was known the SIEV had lost power. Once the vessel was reached, a
search, rescue and recovery operation took place. Once survivors had been
rescued, there followed a disaster victim identification process and
repatriation and burial of the deceased.
The AFP takes lead responsibility for emergencies on Christmas Island.
Alerts are issued through a variety of means, including VHF radio, mobile
radio, and emergency locator beacons. A response appropriate to the level of
urgency and weather conditions is then coordinated.
The committee heard that events unfolded quickly on the day and the
situation evolved rapidly from being a routine interception of a SIEV, to a
distress and then a mass Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) situation:
We initially prepared for a boarding of the SIEV. The
information we got at 0605 was were we aware of another SIEV to the north of
Flying Fish Cove. We were not at that stage. So we simply made all the
preparations. If they can see it, if it is in Flying Fish Cove, we obviously
needed to be there for the boarding itself. As it unfolded, 20 minutes later it
then became a distress, then mass SOLAS situation. Our response does not
change. We always [go] into a boarding with a SOLAS in mind as the worst-case
scenario. So preparations... and speed of response does not change whether it
is a vessel in that position or if it is a vessel foundering. If it is 10 miles
out our response will change, our tactics will change, but it is that close to
the rocks, 500 yards to the coast I guess is a better term, Australian
territory, that sort of concept, our response to a boarding or a SOLAS is
The committee notes that SIEV 221 moved in heavy seas towards the cliff
for over 40 minutes after it was first sighted, before impacting on the rocks
somewhere between 6.25am and 6.35am.
Authorities on Christmas Island (including the Christmas Island Chief of Police
and Customs personnel) issued numerous reports of the impact between 6:29am and
6:35am, stating that the SIEV had impacted the rocks in the vicinity of Rocky
The Christmas Island Emergency Management Plan was activated at 6:20am following
consultation between the Administrator and the AFP officer in charge on the
island, Sergeant Peter Swann. The plan's activation meant that all those
involved in the rescue attempt—including residents—were under direction from
Sergeant Swann, who simultaneously managed the site where the incident occurred
and Ethel Beach, the site where survivors and bodies of the deceased were
The process at Ethel Beach is discussed in detail in the next chapter.
When the boat was first sighted the Customs National Operations Centre
(CNOC) initiated standard operating procedures for a sighted vessel; that is,
nearby Navy and Customs vessels were instructed to intercept and board the
SIEV. They moved to do so, inhibited by the appalling weather conditions, as
they would any other boat arrival. As soon as the ACV Triton was advised
of the sighting, the ACV Triton and HMAS Pirie communicated
and agreed that the Pirie would respond and the Triton would stay
with the hulk of SIEV 220.
By 6:10am the Pirie had altered course to the north and commenced
preparations to intercept the vessel as per standard practice.
At the same time, 6:10am, Customs was advised of a report from Western
Australia Police (WAPOL) Operations that two 000 calls had been received.
Details of the calls indicated that a vessel was between Ashmore Islands and
Christmas Island and that it may have been on fire. Staff initiated an
investigation of approaches to Ashmore Island for a vessel matching that
description and requested an update from the Operational Response Vessel (ORV)
near the island. The response from the Ashmore Island ORV was that no sighting
had been made near the island. At 6:55am the Australian Maritime Security
Operations Centre (AMSOC) advised the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
(AMSA) Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) that the two 000 calls appeared to
relate to the SIEV at Christmas Island.
At 6:12am Customs learned that the SIEV's engine had failed.
Its fuel drum had gone overboard and no fuel was getting to the motor. Diesel
was clearly visible in the water, and crew members could be seen persistently
trying to start the motor until the battery was exhausted.
From this point on, the vessel's direction of movement was beyond the control
of its passengers or crew.
Customs staff at Christmas Island contacted the CNOC at 6:16am and
advised that the SIEV had broken down, was 100 metres offshore and that a major
catastrophe was unfolding. By 6:25am, the HMAS Pirie, already en
route to intercept the SIEV, was advised that the vessel had lost its
engines and was drifting towards the rocks.
By this time officers on the Triton and the Pirie '...did not have
to be told it was a SOLAS; you could work up to that.'
At approximately the same time, the AFP officer in charge contacted the
local hospital and asked staff to be on standby in the event of casualties.
The HMAS Pirie was directed to proceed at full power to the scene but
was still 30 minutes away.
En route, the Pirie experienced an engineering fault in the
port main engine and despatched her Ridged Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) ahead.
ACV Triton was at this time proceeding north to take custody of
the SIEV 220, which had arrived the previous day. At 6:40AM she was
advised of HMAS Pirie’s problems. She then increased speed and
commenced preparations to launch tenders. Attempts by onshore respondents to
throw life jackets over the cliff to approximately 60 people in the water were by
this time already well underway.
Both RHIBs from the HMAS Pirie arrived on scene at 7:05am and the
ACV Triton’s tenders were closing on the scene by 7:14am, a rapid
response given how quickly the tragedy unfolded after the SIEV was first
sighted approaching the island.
The RHIBs and tenders were deployed in seas states above certification for
normal operations, but their deployment was in accordance with relevant
policies, processes and procedures for emergency circumstances.
The committee heard that the HMAS Pirie and ACV Triton were
also conducting their activities above operating guidelines, and that
everything possible was done to save lives:
From my point of view, we were at the absolute limit of what
our ship could do, so in terms of procedures or equipment there is nothing
really that could be any different. What we were working with was probably
beyond what it was even built for and was especially above our operational
procedures. I guess in a perfect world, if you had more tenders and there had
been other boats in the area, they could have been deployed and with more rigs
in the water we could have taken more people on board, but with what we had I
cannot see any changes that would have made a difference....
...[T]o put it in perspective, in our operational procedures
we have our limit which is a sea state 3 to 4. The sea state on the day was
more 7 to 8, so it was well above it. Those procedures usually get put to the
side when you are talking about saving a life at sea....
...[T]hat is the thin line of risking your life to save
someone else's. I think we were right on the edge of that.
The rescue effort was carried out in terrible conditions, and survivors
could not be easily transferred directly to the HMAS Pirie and ACV Triton,
so a life-raft was launched as a staging point. Customs officers on shore acted
as spotters from the cliff top, guiding the RHIBs towards possible survivors in
Visibility was reduced to 200 yards. The RHIBs and tenders, not primarily
designed for search and rescue activity in these conditions, suffered mechanical
breakdowns due to ingestion of kelp and debris from the SIEV. Forty one
survivors were recovered from the water.
The committee recognises that the fact that survivors, with one
exception, were all pulled from the water at sea does not detract from the
obvious efforts made by rescuers on shore. The committee also notes the
coordination by authorities on shore, which resulted in an organised rescue
effort which did itself not claim additional lives despite the significant risk
posed to rescuers.
The committee recognises the pivotal role played by crews on board the
HMAS Pirie and ACV Triton, and makes particular note of the
efficiency of their response to rapidly unfolding events on the day. Given that
the vessel was first seen just after dawn—in appalling weather conditions which
severely diminished visibility—and that government vessels were not stationed near
the scene of the impact overnight, the committee is impressed that rescuers
managed to reach the foundering SIEV as quickly as they did.
Risks faced by rescuers
Professional and volunteer rescuers on shore and out at sea placed
themselves at considerable risk on the day. This section of the report looks at
some of the risks residents and agency staff took while trying to save lives.
Out on the water, rescue boats deployed from the Customs and Navy
vessels were hindered by floating debris from the disintegrating SIEV. Planks
of wood and a tarpaulin were among the objects which were sucked into rescue
vessels' engines, hampering their ability to quickly reach people in the water.
Once their engines were compromised in this way, rescue boats risked being
thrown onto rocks themselves. Diesel from the SIEV, which had by now leaked
into the water, coated survivors and made it harder for rescuers to grip onto
them. Life jackets that were caught in debris had to be cut, in order to pull
people from the sea.
The committee notes that the entire rescue operation was hampered by the
same weather conditions that brought SIEV 221 onto the rocks. This not only
limited rescuers' ability to reach people in the water, it also meant that
decisions had to be made about the safety of crew on board the RHIBs and
Doing nothing is not an option. You cannot sit 300 yards away
and watch it unfold. It certainly was a big decision for me to send the team in
knowing that they were risking their lives. I did not force them to do that.
Basically my instructions at Ethel Beach were: 'Get there as quickly as you
can, make an assessment and do what you can.' I am not going to tell a fellow
who is sitting a metre above a seven-metre wave a metre from a cliff face to
keep going. If he feels unsafe or otherwise, I rely on his good judgment and
training to pull back when he has found his limit. We were at those limits, but
I was relying on their judgment to make the final decision that enough was
The committee notes that these boats were operating in conditions that could
have endangered the lives of crew members on board the RHIBs and tenders, and
those onshore risked slipping on sharp, uneven rocks into deep ravines and into
the sea. One loss of traction followed by a blow to the head would have been
all it took for a fatality.
The committee agrees with Ms Marion Grant's praise of the heroic work
All on board ACV Triton and HMAS Pirie—and particularly the
Customs and Border Protection and defence personnel who navigated their small
vessels in such treacherous seas amongst the debris of the shipwreck and close
to the very rocks that had destroyed SIEV221—put the lives on board that SIEV
before their own. This was nothing short of heroic. All these officers should
be recognised for their professionalism and bravery in such treacherous
The committee also echoes Lieutenant General Hurly's high praise for the
The entire search and rescue effort was undertaken in
difficult and dangerous circumstances. The crews of HMAS Pirie and ACV Triton
deserve our highest praise. They put their own lives at risk in extremely
dangerous circumstances to rescue 41 people from the sea.
Boats available on the island
Decisions also had to be made about launching boats from the island. A
number of serviceable, non-rescue Commonwealth vessels were on the island that
day, as well as a large number of private vessels whose owners were part of the
volunteer marine rescue service. The harbourmaster and AFP lead officer in
charge on the day deemed the launching of boats from the island to be an
unacceptable risk due to dangerous weather conditions, and prevented residents
from doing so. The committee was told that this decision potentially saved
lives, and has no reason to doubt the wisdom of the decision made.
At the time of the incident the AFP considered launching a vessel it had
on Christmas Island, the MV Colin Winchester. Ultimately, the AFP
officer in charge decided against attempting to launch, assessing that
the weather conditions were too severe and would put the lives of the crew at
grave risk. This has been the subject of some scrutiny, as the AMSA had
previously placed the MV Colin Winchester under limited use restrictions,
calling into question its seaworthiness.
The committee took evidence that the vessel is not a suitable candidate for
remedial modification, and will likely be replaced.
The committee explored this issue thoroughly, noting that although the
MV Colin Winchester had failed an annual inspection in August 2010, AMSA
had granted a three-month extension to its survey approval and advised that the
vessel could be launched in a SOLAS situation even after the survey certificate
The committee agrees with the decision not to launch the vessel, and
considers that it was made due to hazardous weather conditions, not because the
vessel was not certified, and that the decision would have been the same had
the vessel passed inspection.
The decision not to launch, the committee notes, is in keeping with the
harbourmaster's decision not to allow other boats to be launched due to appalling
However, the fact that a vessel could not have assisted on 15 December
does not detract from the need for the island to have a fit and permanent
replacement for the Colin Winchester, and the committee took evidence on
the difficulty being experienced by the Department of Regional Australia,
Regional Development and Local Government in obtaining reliable expert advice
on an appropriate vessel for the task. The committee wrote to the Australian
Maritime Safety Authority seeking clarification on whether it was in a position
to advise the Department on suitable vessels for the search and rescue role,
and was told in response that it could provide such advice within the context
of a procurement process.
This being the case, the committee urges the Department to complete the
procurement process and provide for the delivery of a replacement vessel as
soon as possible.
Post-incident search and recovery effort
Later that morning at 9:54am ACV Triton transferred one seriously
injured survivor to HMAS Pirie which was already proceeding at best
speed to Ethel Beach to offload survivors from SIEV 221. ACV Triton and her
tenders continued to search for survivors. With no further survivors located in
the water, the effort changed to recovering the deceased. This process lasted
ACV Triton tenders recovered 28 bodies. At 1:55pm on 15 December ACV Triton
reported that it was leaving the search area based on HMAS Pirie’s return
with its RHIBs deployed after completing the transfer of survivors and deceased
at Ethel Beach. The transfer of survivors and deceased onboard ACV Triton
commenced shortly after 2:20pm, and upon completion at approximately 4:07pm ACV
Triton commenced return passage to the search area. The committee notes
that at this time ACV Triton continued to be responsible for the safety
of the 108 persons embarked from SIEV 218 and SIEV 219.
From 11:00am until around 5:00pm, officers from Customs at Christmas
Island assisted with the offloading of survivors and deceased at Ethel Beach,
with the scene under the control of the AFP.
Around midday, preparations were made for an AP-3C aircraft located in
Darwin to proceed to Christmas Island to contribute to the search and rescue
effort, but the aircraft was forced to turn back after smoke was noticed in the
cabin. It eventually made the journey the following day. While two debris
fields were located, no survivors or deceased were found.
Both HMAS Pirie and ACV Triton continued searching the
area until last light on 15 December, with the surface search formally
suspended at 7:50pm. Both vessels repositioned to seek shelter on the lee side
of the island overnight and HMAS Pirie replaced the steaming party
in SIEV 220 hulk.
At dawn the following day, 16 December 2010, Customs and the Navy
resumed their search and rescue operations at sea while the AFP conducted
shoreline searches for the deceased, debris from the boat and material relevant
to its investigations.
ACV Triton also reported several large pieces of wooden debris located
close to the coast and later that day two further bodies were recovered.
By that time search and rescue responsibility had been handed over to
the AMSA. AMSA's oversight continued until its search was ceased on 17 December 2010.
The recovery phase of the operation continued for another two days, and
resulted in a total of 30 bodies being found. The 20 people still missing are
Reliance on local divers
Due to the time it would have taken to transport professional divers to
Christmas Island from mainland Australia, the AFP advised that local divers
were '...contracted to undertake searches at sea' for bodies in the immediate
aftermath of the tragedy:
If the AFP did require the assistance of diving services, as
we did on this day, they are available on island and we can use them. This
really goes to the particular skill make-up, the currencies and competencies of
the relatively small number of men and women who serve on island permanently
and the kinds of skill sets that you want to maintain as a core competency of
skill sets. As in the case with this particular tragedy, in the very first
instance, because of the time frame that unfolded, we rely on the local
community before we can get in the professional police divers to carry out
those very difficult tasks.
Two more bodies were retrieved by divers after the incident. The
committee is aware that some concerns exist around this issue:
...[I]f you had had people trained up to expect the sorts of
things that people had to encounter with this incident, that would have been
very helpful, I am sure. I think many people have not dealt with their trauma at
all well, or at all—maybe hiding from it. I reflect on why people are not
coming today. Some have told me they do not want to be here. The recovery of
bodies from a wreck is a pretty traumatic job, I would have thought.
The committee is mindful that reliance on local divers for this function
placed them in a position for which they may not have had adequate
psychological preparation, but also that the retrieval of the bodies was a
time-critical exercise and took place in a very remote location. The committee
asked a number of questions in order to establish whether appropriate measures
were taken to support the mental health needs of the divers, and mitigate the
traumas the divers experienced.
Representatives of the ADF and Customs explained to the committee that
neither the Triton nor the Pirie had qualified divers on board
because both vessels are primarily tasked with surveillance, not rescue.
As such, neither has an operational need for qualified divers:
From a Customs and Border Protection point of view, it is not
something that we need on board our vessels. As you have heard, diving is a
particular skill set. It has quite an onerous set of competencies to be
maintained. So, once you are qualified in our way of operating, there is the
issue of how many diving hours you must maintain to keep your skills current.
We just do not have the work for a diver to do, and we would not even be able
to keep people competent to the standards if we did employ divers to come on
board our vessels. There is just no mission requirement for a diver.
The committee sought further clarification from the AFP on the
circumstances of the local divers' involvement in the recovery operation, and
on support provided for the divers after the incident. A response was sent in
writing to the Committee Secretary, indicating that the divers had access to
the same counselling services as the rest of the Christmas Island community:
During the recovery operation, the divers were asked through
the Christmas Island Harbourmaster to assist. There was no formal contract. In
effect they were asked and readily agreed and went out to help. Counselling
services for the two local divers were provided immediately after the incident
and on an ongoing basis by the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service. Dr
Graham, in her evidence to the Committee on 7 June 2011, addressed their
counselling services in some detail.
The committee wishes to acknowledge the assistance provided by
local divers in performing the time-critical task of searching for the
deceased. The committee understands that this was necessary due to the remote
location of the island, and that their work was of enormous importance to the
families of the deceased. The committee believes the Indian Ocean Territories
Health Service went to great lengths to identify individuals who might benefit
from counselling after the event. This is outlined in Chapter 4.
The committee believes the response by Customs, Navy and AFP on
the day was a tremendous rescue effort made in atrocious circumstances. Video
footage taken on the day gave the committee an insight into the enormity of the
challenge posed to rescuers. Once the SIEV 221 impacted on rocks, and began to
break up and people were thrown into the water so close to the jagged cliff,
saving lives became a task fraught with difficulty, and saving every life an
impossibility. With deep regret for every life lost that day, the committee
commends the rescuers whose efforts saw 41 survivors pulled to safety.
The committee is pleased to note evidence provided from Customs that
seven out of the eight recommendations contained in its comprehensive Internal
Review have been implemented, and the last is in train. The committee considers
that the broad acceptance and implementation of the recommendations will do
much to fill in any gaps that may be apparent in retrospect, and the streamline
the response to any similar emergency in the future. In giving evidence to the
committee, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Customs submitted that:
The events of that day are well-recorded and demonstrate the
bravery of those aboard HMAS Triton and HMAS Pirie, as well as
the people on Christmas Island, who supported the rescue and had to deal with
those of the deceased who were recovered. In response to this tragedy, Customs
and Border Protection, including Border Protection Command, undertook an
internal review to identify the effectiveness of the internal policy, processes
or procedures used to respond to the incident. This review, which forms part of
our submission, provides details of events that occurred on the morning of 15
December. The review noted that Customs and Border Protection followed and
acted in accordance with its policies, processes and procedures. The internal
review also looked at the lessons learned from this event and made eight
recommendations. At the time we lodged our submission, five of the recommendations
were fully implemented, with the remaining three underway. I am pleased to
update the committee that seven of the eight recommendations are now fully
The committee believes the eight recommendations listed in Customs' SIEV 221
Internal Review were appropriate and comprehensive.
In addition, on the weight of evidence provided the committee supports
the findings of Customs' review and agrees that everyone involved acted in
accordance with policies and processes relevant to their role. The committee believes
that all applicable response, interagency communication and search and rescue
procedures were followed by each agency. The committee is satisfied that
interagency capabilities worked extremely well on the day, especially given the
difficult conditions in which the tragedy unfolded. The committee has not come
across anything in the course of its inquiry that would lead it to question the
quality of the response and rescue effort mounted.
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