These are fraught times – COVID threat seems to be everywhere, the war rages in the Ukraine, the Pacific situation is somewhat uncertain, and a seemingly marathon federal election period However MMHN has Good news!

MMHN is privileged to announce the appointment of Dr Kevin Fewster as our inaugural Patron. Many maritime enthusiasts will be aware of Kevin’s impressive background in Australia and internationally in maritime heritage throughout his thirty-five year career as director of major museums in Australia and UK. From 2007-2019 Kevin was the Director of Royal Museums Greenwich, the world’s largest and most visited maritime museum precinct. It comprised the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, the historic clipper ship Cutty Sark, the beautiful early 17th century Queen’s House, the Caird Library and the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre. Kevin was the founding Director of the South Australian Maritime Museum (winner of Australian national tourism and national museum of the year awards) and of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney. He was also Director of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum (then the largest museum in Australia) 2000-2007. Kevin is a Life Fellow of the International Congress of Maritime Museums (the world peak body in its sector) in recognition of his 30+ years of service to ICMM and his being the only person to serve two terms as ICMM President.  He is currently a board member of The Mariners’ Museum in Newport VA, USA and Patron of Melbourne’s Friends of Gallipoli Inc. To state the obvious, maritime heritage is global. Kevin lives in London but travels widely and MMHN ls excited at the prospect, through Kevin, of closer engagement,  with the international maritime heritage sector. MMHN is delighted to have Kevin, literally ‘aboard’ sharing his expertise and experiences with the MMHN. Kevin is also a published historian.


(Click on the headings below for specific items, or scroll down for the full Update)

1. You are invited to the forthcoming MMHN events
2. Yarra River news
3. Piers in the news
4. AMMC News
5. OSSA News
6. World Ship Society (WSS)
7. News from the Heritage Fleet
8. Port of Melbourne News
9. Historic Photograph of the Month
10. Cruise Shipping News 
11. Frigate Debate continues
12. MMHN Museum of the Month
13. In conclusion – the Federal Election 2022
14. Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance (AHAA)


1. You are invited to the forthcoming MMHN events

Melbourne’s Bridges: The Spencer Street Bridge

When: 18 May, 5.30-7.00pm
Where: Magnet Gallery, The District, Docklands
Melbourne has a plethora of bridges over the lower reaches of the Yarra – have you ever noticed the Spencer Street Bridge? One of the most neglected bridges, this dependable 1930 structure has a backstory of political infighting, pioneering technology and an unexpected obstacle pre-dating the bridge by several millennia. City of Melbourne local history librarian Fiona Campbell will lead a visual journey through the design, construction and significance of this enduring bridge.
RSVP by 11 May:

Harbour Trust Image Spotting

All are welcome to join the second MMHN Heritage & Museum Special Advisory Group’s workshop to help identify some of the 6000 astounding photographs of our waterways in the Public Records Office (PROV) Harbour Masters Collection.
When: 15 June, 10am – 12 noon
Where: PROV, 99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne
RSVP by 8 June:

Image from Victoria Harbour Conservation Plan 2012, click here.


2. Yarra River news

MMHN is pleased to note recognition by the City of Melbourne(CoM) that the Yarra River threading through this city of its immense heritage value of the and deemed worthy of investment.
Firstly – CoM investment in Greenline Trail which in part aligns with MMHN Northbank Maritime Trail. The MMHN differs to the extend that we advocate that the trail should rightly be extended to encompass Victoria Harbour.
Secondly – CoM investment in a self-guided podcast, designed to encourage rediscovery the city, guiding listeners from Southbank to Docklands along the Yarra River. The podcast aligns to a large extent with the MMHN Project ‘Birrarung to the Blue Lake’  which will focus upon an historically accurate account of the maritime significance of the river – its banks, crossings, swamps and maritime trade, click here.

3. Piers in the news

For the multitude of maritime enthusiasts who share MMHN serious concern over the dire condition of piers and jetties around our coastline the content in recent ABC Radio 774 Conversation Hour was cause for alarm – “From Flinders to Lakes Entrance to Elwood, nearly 20 piers were closed last year due to safety concerns, and cost a lot of money to repair or replace.”  Many stakeholders called in to share their angst. MMHN called in to report our dismay at the chronic underfunding and lack of expertise resulting in poor management by Parks Victoria. There is clear evidence indicating that responsible authorities fail to acknowledge not only the heritage significance of many piers but also, most importantly, fail to factor in the beneficial role played by such maritime infrastructure for the community and our economy. A pattern of demolition through negligence is widespread.  Listen to the conversation here

4. AMMC News

Maritime restoration is often complex. In early April 2022 Long standing AMMC members, Sydney Heritage Fleet facilitated, a complex, co-ordinated, and costly, operation, at Sydney’s Garden Island, The John Oxley was floated off the Dock and re-launched. The Kanangra – the only remaining Sydney ferry that operated before the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge 90 years ago –is to take her then take her place on the Sea Heritage Dock for the start of her hull restoration.
This long anticipated operation known as ‘The Swap’  is  a “significant milestone for the Fleet, a member-based, not-for-profit charity, established in 1965 with a mission to conserve, preserve and restore maritime vessels and artefacts of historic importance, particularly to Sydney; and to display and operate them as ‘the museum that goes to sea’” 

Image courtesy of AMMC

5. OSSA News

Indigenous Seafarer
OSSA shares news of an OSSA member Ryan Cobb – a remarkable Saltwater man. In 2019, Ryan became Australia’s first Indigenous Master Mariner and Captain – the highest grade of seafarer qualification and one which entitles him to be master of any size of vessel in any geographic region. Ryan has been working in and on the water since his teen years, including time as a Master Mariner onboard the Woodside-operated Ngujima-Yin FPSO off Exmouth, Western Australia. (A reminder that at FPSO is A floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) unit is a floating vessel used by the offshore oil and gas industry for the production and processing) Ryan grew up in Broome and the Dampier Peninsula and grew up in Broome and on the Dampier Peninsula on saltwater country. It comes as no surprise then that Ryan always had a very close affiliation with the sea. Ryan was a pearling diver until he was sponsored by Woodside and Farstad in 2006 as a marine operations trainee and embarked his varied seafaring career. The name ‘Woodside’ may be familiar but Farstad, a consortium of operators under the agency of Australian Drilling Associates less so.

Image courtesy of OSSA

6. World Ship Society (WSS)

Once again the April edition of the WSS newsletter presents a fascinating and extraordinarily  diverse images of the cavalcade of merchant shipping plying  our waters, in and out of so many Victorian  ports. MMHN encourages all maritime enthusiasts to consider contacting the World Ship Society which ow meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Port Education Centre in Lorimer St Port Melbourne at 7.30pm.  Images below indicate the crucial work of tugs – and serve as a reminder that she merchant marine  industry is dependent on seafarer in tugs.

Image Venus Sky  by John Nunn appearing in WSS News. After part discharging in Kwinana and Adelaide, the Venus Sky was alongside at Lascelles 3 over the 20 – 24/3 discharging the remaining 20,000mt of phosphate loaded in the Russian Baltic sea port of Ust – Luga near Leningrad for shipper Ameropa.

Image Nine Frontier by John Nunn. Wood Chip Carrier – 6 hatches / 3 x cranes and hoppers, flagged in Panama and built in 2008 at the Sanoyas Mizushima Works. Click here.


. News from the Heritage Fleet

Alma Doepel 
The Watertight Deck Phase has commenced focusing on ensuring the structure of the deck is ready to lay the restored timber  decking.  Shipwrights have completed the deck fairing and are bolting in place the bases for reinstallation of the whalebacks on the foredeck. Fixing of the first plywood layer of the deck is expected to commence in April.  The forward side of this bulkhead is being lined with tongue and groove planking machined and installed by volunteers. For more detail click here.

A fascinating account of the work as steady progress on final details of restoring the restoration continues: Sealing top manhole cover, investigating the sealing face machined for a proper seal,  painting the beading prior to installation, DW control box installation, cleaning and de-rusting of Emergency Covers for the engine room, easing gear and freeing-up the gauge glass cocks, skylights, freeing up the gauge glass cocks, sealing wheelhouse deck with epoxy, repainting boiler attachments and foredeck planking, pumping out bilges, re-installing engineer’s water urn and plugging open tee-piece where the exhaust line connects to the steam trap, stripping plastic protective cover from the engine be done. The Engine is now exposed in all its glory before firing

RAAF Crash Boat  Restoration News
MMHN recommends that you have a look at this short video on the commencement of this exciting project. Click here for a film clip on the restoration of the RAAF boat

8. Port of Melbourne News

Webb Dock East Extension extends the quay line by 71 metres, Port of Melbourne will ensure Webb Dock East is restored to its intended capacity as a two-berth terminal. Click here.

9. Historic Photograph of the Month

This is the second of a series of images from the astounding Public Record Office of Victoria’s collection.

VPRS 8360/P0001, 62

The aerial shot shows four British warships, part of the Special Service Squadron, at Princes Pier on 24th March 1924. The ships are HMS Hood, Repulse, Delhi and Danae. You can see that the vessels are rigged with canvas awnings to allow the hundreds of visitors to tour the ships in comfort. The battlecruiser then four-year-old HMS Hood was lost in action with the Bismarck & Prinz Eugen with all but three of her crew on 24th May 1941. The battle cruiser HMS Repulse (delivered in 1916) subsequently sunk by Japanese aircraft on 10th December 1941 when attempting to intercept landings in Malaya. HMS Danae was a cruiser launched in 1918. It served in WW2 in both the Royal Navy and the Polish Navy.  Its sister ship, the cruiser HMS Delhi, also launched 1918, also survived WW2 though suffering extensive battle damage then scrapped in 1948. Newspapers such as the Argus (22nd March,1924) described the visit to Melbourne as “an uninterrupted round of festivities for officers and men”. Ships crews marched through the city and were dined at the Exhibition Building.

10. Cruise Shipping News

How pleasing it is to know that Australia will be allowing passenger ships to be visiting our shores after almost two years. You may want to check the schedule. See more here.

11. Frigate Debate continues

Australia commissioned British company BAE Systems to build $35 billion nine high-tech, anti-submarine frigates. But unless you’re a military enthusiast, you might not know what they are or why we need them.
This month, retired navy chief  Vice Admiral David Shackleton says Australia’s contentious $45 billion future frigate program should be scrapped, arguing the British-designed warships “won’t give the government a range of military options it could need for managing a conflict” and are ‘Unsuited for Australia’s needs “’and that we should  nation to back out of $45b frigate deal. See here.

Image of BAE’s Type 26 Global Combat Shi from the ABC.(Supplied: BAE Systems)

12. MMHN Museum of the Month

Jackie Watts reports a recent visit to King island.King Island is a fascinating place for all maritime heritage enthusiasts – its ALL about wrecks and lighthouses! “Given location of King Island it is easy to understand why it is known as The Graveyard of Bass Strait. Lying at the western end of Bass Strait, the island forms an impenetrable barrier to ships that sailed too far south on entering the Strait, making for Port Phillip or Sydney. 140 hundred vessels, large and small have been wrecked on the island, with the loss of over 700 lives. 400 of these were lost on the most infamous wreck on King Island the Cataraqie. Still the worst civil disaster in Australia. Colourfully described by historian and author Luke Agati, the jagged coastline is “It’s like nature’s own mincer” an array of sharp and semi-submerged rocks just offshore. See here.

There are now three lighthouses on the island. The King Island Historical Society established its Museum in a former lighthouse keeper’s cottage beneath 2nd. tallest lighthouse in Australia! So frequent (and leaving aside the loss of life) so lucrative were the steady succession of wrecks that salvage became a significant industry on the island. The Museum collection includes an estimated 2,000 objects and 1,500 photographs offering insight into how life on the island – sealers, salvage and pioneering settlers.
See here.

Image from King Island Museum  promotional material

Image by ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves A model of dedicated to the wreck of the Netherby. This model was made by local Christian Robertson, for the 150th anniversary of the wreck) The Netherby was wrecked on July 14, 1866, yet another immigrant boat from England, delivering railway locomotives and a population boost for Queensland.

13. In conclusion – the Federal
Election 2022

In relation to Maritime industry and Heritage – What matters really matters?
Much as it happens.
Elections focus the mind and present an opportunity to influence decision-makers across the political spectrum to effect change. It is clear that strong advocacy tis now required to defend against the decline in Australian shipping industry and national seafaring capability crosses the political divide. The items below have appeared in the media during April –  indicative selection only. While it is pleasing to note maritime issues are indeed making news during the election coverage – it is not always good news.

  • Who recognizes the issues?

Pleasing to see some reference by one major contender at least to the urgent need to address Maritime me shipping issues. Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese stated in Parliament (April 3) “We need a government with a real plan to ensure supply using Australian flagged ships with Australian seafarers in a strategic fleet.”

  • Coalition – or not?

Maritime Industry Australia( MIAL) reports on its campaign to proactively educate and engage with key decision makers, media and the community including direct correspondence with the currently responsible Minister, the DPM Barnaby Joyce who  commented in The Australian on 8 April that government was very alive to Australia’s reliance on foreign vessels for coastal trade and are aware of the risks to merchant shipping for Australia .However, Mr.Joyce revealed that he was yet to secure the support of Prime Minister Morrison. MIAL have now written directly to the PM, the Treasurer and Finance Minister reiterating the importance of taking action to arrest the decline in Australian ships and address the inherit risk to our national security. Click here.

  • Buying ships not making them?

Andrew Green (ABC News 19/4/2022 )SOffshore supply vessel Horizon Star, five-year-old, Norwegian-built offshore supply was acquired 2 months ago in February acquired f by the Australian Government and been renamed Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) Reliant in readiness for it to be transferred to its new home port of Brisbane. Defence officials has been purchased in February (ie. pre budget) in the Spanish tax haven of the Canary Islands, $93.4 million. Considerably less than the March federal budget allocation of $193 million for the “Pacific Support Vessel”. In addition in another tender document published by Defence in April revealed almost $5.5 million for “Dry Docking Activities” and $1.2 million for “management services” involving Canadian company Horizon Maritime Services. This acquisition has elicited controversy in WA where the new support vessel was to be built. Brent Clark, CEO of the Australian Industry and Defence Network, which represents local military suppliers, said the decision was “quite simply … incredibly disappointing. Australian industry just completely and utterly misses out on any work on this vessel”. Click here.

  • Pacific Maritime Security?

Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced a boost of $12 million to the existing Pacific Maritime Security (PMSP) Program to improve local capability and capacity for aerial surveillance to guard against illegal fishing and drug smuggling.  The PMSP “builds upon the success of the original Pacific Patrol Boat Program and will see an uninterrupted 60 year commitment of deeper-level engagement in the Pacific. Under the program, Australia is delivering 21 Guardian-class Patrol Boats to 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Lesté between 2018 and 2023. To date, Australia has delivered six vessels to PNG, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Fiji”. Click here.

  • Submarine SA research & jobs –  maybe ?

The Australian 7/4 Ben Packham reported The PM has backed down on his commitment to building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide. The PM now stated that the priority will be to deliver the submarines  as quickly as possible, which has raised the possibility that at least some of them could be built overseas. Independent senator Rex Patrick says the government made a clear commitment to build the submarines in Adelaide, and Morrison’s latest comments represent “an utter betrayal of South Australia.

The Australian 21/4 Greg Brown reported PM treads water over subs job number”. The PM announced government funding for a research partnership between business and the University of Adelaide to create new defence technologies and products. Mr. Morrison also said that SA’s ship-building capacity was a crucial factor for the US in deciding to back the AUKUS alliance. However, Mr.Morrison was not able say how many jobs will be created in SA under the deal to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. And there is more!

MMHN like the rest of Australia awaits the outcome.

14. Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance (AHAA)

Moving now to what the federal election means in relation to maritime heritage issues. Nothing has emerged this far.  AHAA is mounting an election campaign to influence heritage protection in Australia, – including  maritime heritage.   For the first time in an Australian election, a campaign is being waged to make sure all candidates around Australia understand what is at stake if nothing is done to reform heritage protection policy in this nation. A sobering case-study of heritage asset LOSS and THREAT. Is presented Docklands Precinct in Melbourne. Once abundant heritage assets have largely been destroyed by government prioritising real estate development.  Remaining heritage assets  such as Central Pier remain in jeopardy, threatened in the now familiar pattern of demolition by neglect. Just imagine the wealth in industrial heritage assets which once existed in Docklands. Melbourne boasted that its Docklands was the ‘most mechanised’ in the Commonwealth. Victoria Harbour docks handled over 2 million tons of cargo annually and it remained Melbourne’s most used dock until well into the 1960s. Much of the maritime heritage infrastructure underpinning Victoria’s prosperity has been simply dumped as scrap metal and timber. Another example in Docklands is the Shipping Control Tower. It says so much about Docklands’ once splendid maritime heritage. In 1962, public/private consultations led to the construction of the Port of Melbourne central control ‘station’ to co-ordinate shipping, towage pilots and emergency services in the extraordinarily busy port.

Elsewhere in the world such public heritage assets such are recognized and protected as having significant social, cultural and economic value. Industrial heritage sites and assets are rightly celebrated, protected and have been recognised as underpinning the cultural tourism boom in the UK prior to COVID. AHAA is determined that candidates around Australia are made fully aware od what is at stake. thinks so, and so does the MMHN. See   AHAA called for in-put from heritage enthusiasts all around Australia. listed on the AHAA website. Click here.

Image Shipping Control Tower from Victoria Harbour from the Victoria Harbour Conservation Plan 2012.

Do keep well, everyone.
Until next month,

Kind regards
Dr Jackie Watts OAM
Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network
0400 305 323 or email