Geelong Advertiser, 28 May 2009

Pt Lonsdale warship sinking stoush

Pt Lonsdale warship sinking stoush

By Jeff Whalley, Geelong Advertiser

The sinking of HMAS Canberra as a dive wreck has been delayed after a stoush over where best to scuttle the navy vessel.

Thursday, 28 May 2009 — The ship was to be sent to the depths off the Bellarine Peninsula this month after decommissioning work at Geelong's grain wharf but a disagreement between the State and Federal governments has left the ship in limbo.

It's understood the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water and Heritage had to sign off on the final location but raised concerns over the State Government's choice of site.

A Defence Department source said the impasse now appeared to be broken and an early to mid-August date for scuttling was set.

John Lawler, of the Victorian Artificial Reef Society, which spearheaded the push to acquire the ship, was hopeful the issue would be resolved soon.

"The Federal Government's environment body must sign a sea dumping permit for the Canberra to be scuttled. The State and Federal governments are working on this as we speak," Mr Lawler said.

The decommissioning of the ship was completed and agencies involved were "keen to move on" and complete the sinking.

"The Victorian Artificial Reef Society started the process in February 2006 getting agencies involved," Mr Lawler said.

"Our platform was to secure the vessel. We've done that; now we are now waiting on the agencies.

"We are all dressed up with a place to go - now we are waiting for someone to tick all the boxes.

"It must be costing them to hold the vessel down at grain wharf, so they would be keen to get it off the inventory."

After HMAS Canberra was sunk, clearance divers would search the ship to make sure each of the 17 explosive charges used during the scuttling had discharged properly.

"They do an assessment that would take about a week and make sure it is safe for divers," Mr Lawler said.

The proposed sinking site off Pt Lonsdale is 30 metres deep but divers will be able to touch the top deck at about 18 metres.

Geelong Advertiser, Online

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