A combined contingent from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), and United States Marine Corps (USMC) have located 22 WWII-era aerial bombs for removal from Tuvalu waters during Operation RENDER SAFE 2022.
At the request of the Government of Tuvalu, the contingent deployed aboard His Majesty’s New Zealand Ship Manawanui to conduct reconnaissance of reported explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Funafuti Lagoon and Nanumea this month. Beginning at Funafuti Lagoon, RNZN Military Hydrographers surveyed areas of interest and the combined dive team investigated the sea floor. After finding no ordnance in the Funafuti area, Manawanui sailed to Nanumea, where the recorded ERW finds were located. All operations were conducted in a COVID-safe manner.
Commander of ADF Operations in the South West Pacific, Major General Scott Winter said identifying World War II-era munitions in the Pacific is a vital step towards reducing the indiscriminate impact of ERW. “This has been a valuable opportunity to work together with Tuvaluan authorities and our partners from New Zealand, the United States and Canada, and for our crews to share knowledge whilst working in support of the Pacific family,” Winter said. “The team identified a significant number of ERW during the operation. This will enable us to conduct further planning in preparation for the safe disposal of these remnants, and also minimises the risk to personnel and vessels travelling within Tuvalu waters.”
The successful operation saw the combined contingent scan more than 2.5 square kilometres of seabed over 47 hours of dive time, identifying 22 AN-M43 500 pound aerial bombs and four .50 calibre small arms dumps in depths of 10-18 metres.
Commanding Officer of Manawanui, Commander John McQueen, said Operation RENDER SAFE was the first opportunity for the ship to operate with an embarked international force with combined detached diving and military hydrography elements. “Operation RENDER SAFE has been a successful event for us, as we proved capability, enhanced our ability to operate with our multinational partners, and were able to make a real difference to our Pacific neighbours.”
The disposal of ERW identified during reconnaissance activities in Tuvalu is currently planned for 2023.