ex-HMAS Tobruk

from wreck to reef

The scuttling of the ex-HMAS Tobruk is a project in partnership between the Queensland Government, Bundaberg and Fraser Coast Regional Councils to create an artificial reef and world-class dive site in the Hervey Bay region.

An historical icon

Background photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Ex-HMAS Tobruk was launched on 1 March 1980 by Lady Anna Cowan, as the Royal Australian Navy’s first purpose built amphibious heavy lift ship.

Launch of the Tobruk at Carrington slipways, 1980. Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Launch of the Tobruk at Carrington slipways, 1980.
Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

During her distinguished 34-year long career, ex-HMAS Tobruk provided heavy-lift capabilities to transport equipment and personnel to and from Australian and foreign shores.

With two helicopter decks, a tank deck, a vehicle deck and a roll on/roll off function, she was an imperative part of the Royal Australian Navy fleet.

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Ex-HMAS Tobruk could transport up to 18 tanks in the tank deck, and could provide accommodation for up to 520 troops.

Her first overseas deployment was to Ashdod, Israel in 1982. Ex-HMAS Tobruk embarked eight helicopters, as well as stores and equipment to assist the Royal Australian Air Force as part of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

The ship filled her passport with countless international ports, providing humanitarian aid to foreign countries. She supported cyclone affected Tonga and Vanuatu following the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Isaac in 1982, and Vanuatu again in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. She also participated in Samoa and Tonga in response to a devastating tsunami in 2008.

Her humanitarian assistance also included participation in pacific partnership, providing services to communities across South-East Asia.

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

During the Christmas of 1992, ex-HMAS Tobruk was called upon to assist with the transportation of vehicles, equipment and personnel to provide humanitarian relief in Somalia under Operation SOLACE.

During this time, ex-HMAS Tobruk also provided training for US Marines and Navy Seals.

In 1993, ex-HMAS Tobruk was awarded the Duke of Gloucester’s Cup for displaying the highest level of proficiency for the year.

The ship was put to use again in 1994, when she transported 669 personnel and equipment to Bougainville Island as part of an Australian commitment to the South Pacific Peacekeeping Force. She visited Bougainville again on numerous occasions from 1997-2000, providing logistics and transportation support and assisting the Truce Monitoring Group to address issues between the warring factions.

Ex-HMAS Tobruk received a Ship’s Commendation for efforts in East Timor from 1999-2000. She transported 1,353 tonnes of cargo and 289 troops as well as humanitarian stores to the area, assisting with security issues until the arrival of UN peacekeepers.

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

The ship and her crew participated in another vital operation in June 2000, supporting the evacuation of Australians from the Solomon Islands after the overthrow of the central Government. A cease-fire agreement was made on board ex-HMAS Tobruk between the warring factions.

She was decommissioned on 31 July 2015 and towed to Bundaberg Port in December 2016 to begin preparations for scuttling.

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

The legacy of Ex-HMAS Tobruk will continue to be shared through the stories told by her crew, and through her new purpose deep beneath the ocean’s surface.

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

Stories from the ship

Background photo: © Commonwealth of Australia

These stories tell the important role that ex-HMAS Tobruk played during her service as a heavy lift ship, as well as the bravery and endurance shown by the service personnel who worked on her.

John was an engineer on ex-HMAS Tobruk when she was first commissioned in 1981. He participated in her first international visit to Israel with UN peacekeeping efforts.

Luke served on the ship from 1991 to 1993 conducting general duties. He participated in many exercises during his service, of particular significance his participation in Operation Solace, providing peace keeping efforts in Somalia at the end of 1992.

Wayne spent time on ex-HMAS Tobruk while working for
1-RAR. He remembers weeks spent on board ex-HMAS Tobruk, conducting training exercises as part of the military.

In the following letter, Stephen Jones writes about his time spent on ex-HMAS Tobruk during its first overseas deployment to Ashdod, Israel.

Sinking ex-HMAS Tobruk

It is estimated that up to 400 tonnes of material may be removed from the ship before she is scuttled.

Ex-HMAS Tobruk was towed to Bundaberg in December 2016 to begin preparations for scuttling. These preparations are estimated to take up to two years to ensure that any materials harmful to the environment are removed, and that the site is safe for divers.

Ex-HMAS Tobruk is now anchored at the Port of Bundaberg. Viewing is possible from a safe distance.

Photo: © Queensland Government

Photo: © Queensland Government

Cleaning operations will include the removal of fuels, oils, greases, hazardous material, and items that could break loose during the scuttling process.

Diver access holes will also be cut to allow safe, easy access for divers, and allow light into the lower decks.

Divers will be able to experience rich sea life native to our vibrant reefs.

NPSR will consult with the community and speciality groups to get their input into the dive design.

The process also includes post-scuttling activities, including the retrieval of debris, clearance dives, and repairing any damage from the scuttling.

Photo: © Queensland Government

Experience the wreck

Once ex-HMAS Tobruk has been scuttled, you will be able to experience her from a different perspective deep beneath the ocean’s surface.

Ex-HMAS Tobruk’s final resting place will be in the Great Sandy Marine Park, just off Hervey Bay. The placement of the ship must be carefully selected to ensure correct depth and orientation is achieved in the scuttling process.

Once the ship has been scuttled, the dive site will be accessed through approved commercial dive companies and limited access for private divers via a booking system.

Background photo: © Queensland Government

Reef residents

When ex-HMAS Tobruk settles on the ocean’s floor, marine life will quickly attach to the metal surfaces, and embryonic corals will cover most of the structure.

Photo: © Queensland Government

Photo: © Queensland Government

Sub-tropical fish will use the ship’s nooks and crannies as their new habitat.

Photo: © Queensland Government

Photo: © Queensland Government

New coral colonies will provide a home for reef animals, such as fish, sponges, worms, starfish and molluscs. These corals will eventually build a reef as they grow, die and cement

Photo: © Queensland Government

Photo: © Queensland Government

Follow the transformation

Follow the transformation journey of the ex-HMAS Tobruk on our facebook page.

Access the text version of the stages from wreck to reef, and Steven Jones' letter of his time spent on the ex-HMAS Tobruk.