Geelong Advertiser, 9 June 2008

Canberra set to arrive at final port

Canberra set to arrive at final port

By Jeff Whalley, Geelong Advertiser

Former Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Canberra will be towed through the heads of Port Phillip Bay at about 6.30am tomorrow.

Monday, 9 June 2008 — The historic vessel is heading to Geelong for decommissioning.

After a long battle, the Victorian Government secured the 4100-tonne Adelaide-class guided missile frigate, which is to be sunk off Barwon Heads for use as a dive wreck.

The frigate is expected to reach Geelong at about 2pm tomorrow, with decommissioning to last 10 months.

The Canberra will berth at Geelong's grain pier while it is stripped of any valuable gear.

It will then be towed through Port Phillip Heads and sunk to form an artificial reef, which will result in a boon for the dive industry in the first half of 2009.

Bellarine MP Lisa Neville said the decommissioning process would leave only the shell of the vessel to ensure no impact on the undersea life.

"Anything which could inflict long- or short-term damage will be removed. This is a big process. The EPA then have to examine it to make sure it is OK," Ms Neville said.

"This is very exciting as it is the first time any new dive attraction has been sunk in Victoria in many, many years.

"In itself, the event should be a big tourist attraction and bring a lot of focus onto the region."

She said the State Government was providing $1.5 million dollars towards the project.

"We are supporting this project because of the value it will add to Victoria's $10.9 billion tourism industry that employs 159,000 people," Ms Neville said.

Federal Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the Federal Government supported the project.

"The Australian Government is also providing funds and managing the contract to prepare and sink the Canberra as a safe and environmen-tally-friendly dive attraction," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"Tourism projects that have previously used former Royal Australian Navy warships in this way have generated up to $23 million annually for their local communities."

Geelong Advertiser, Online

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