A Summer draws to a close, news to share and important dates for your diaries and, as befits a maritime network, literally ‘out of the blue’, a rare, actually unprecedented appeal to individuals or organisations who may be in a position to offer a financial grant to support MMHN. Please see details at the conclusion of this MMHN Update.
(Click on the headings below for specific items, or scroll down for the full Update)
1. Williamstown Dockyards
2. Osborne Naval Shipyard Security, Adelaide
3. Nuclear Submarines
4. 2023 Australian Wooden Boat Festival
5. Australian Maritime Museums Council (AMMC)
6. Women in Maritime Industry
7. Anglesea and District Historical Society
8. Macquarie Island Marine Park Expansion
9. MMHN Childrens’ Maritime Book Project
10. Slocum’s Luck
11. Offshore & Specialist Ships Association (OSSA) Invitation
12. Fascinating Archives – Maritime Industry
13. The National Trust Heritage Festival 2023
14. HMAS Cerberus Open Day
15. Maritime Logistics Industry – How does Australia perform?
16. MOU between AMSA and Navy
17. Maritime Industry Association Ltd (MIAL)
18. Victoria Harbour Shipping Control Tower
19. Heritage Partners Program
Williamstown seems to be receiving the recognition it deserves! MMHN Board Member Peter Quinlivian alerts us to offers advance notice of forthcoming Williamstown opportunities for you to note in your diary:
On 24 April 2023 Peter will address the Victorian Chapter of the Naval Historical Society of Australia at the Waverley RSL on the history of the Alfred Graving Dock at Williamstown, with a particular focus on its long association with the Victorian Colonial Navy and the Royal Australian Navy.
On 29 April 2023 Hobsons Bay Heritage Festival will offer ticketed tours of the Williamstown Shipyard as part of the Hobsons Bay Heritage Festival as a collaboration between Tall Ships Victoria, Port of Williamstown Action Group, Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, the Hobsons Bay Yacht Club, Hobsons Bay City Council and BAE Systems.
On 25 July 2023 Peter will address the Port Melbourne Historical Society at the Port Melbourne Town Hall on the history of the Williamstown Dockyard with a particular focus on its long rivalry and inter-relationship with Port Melbourne.
As an indication of a greater focus on Australia’s national security, the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide has now been added to a list of the nation’s critical infrastructure assets. Strict new security rules will apply at Adelaide nuclear submarine-building facility aimed at assuring Australia’s AUKUS partners that sensitive military secrets will be protected. Companies operating from the site will be required to comply with new security rules. Protection will increase on confidential information such as vessel diagrams and schematics. Hunter-class frigates are also being built at Osborne. The Osborne Naval Shipyard is a multi-user facility at Osborne on the Lefevre Peninsula in South Australia. It was established in 1987 for the Australian Submarine Corporation, and the first products of the facility were the six Collins-Class submarines.See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/23/strict-new-security-rules-for-adelaide-nuclear-submarine-building-facility-in-bid-to-protect-military-secrets
The Navy explains the long gestation of the ‘new’ direction: An announcement in in 2021 that Australia would acquire nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) signalled a significant shift in Australia’s defence policy. For many it seemed as if it was a decision and discussion without precedent, but this is not the case. The question of whether Australia should acquire nuclear-powered submarines was first asked in 1959 during the simpler discussion of whether Australia should acquire submarines at all. Over the years that followed the nuclear propulsion question was raised several times, including in 1965 as the construction program for the RAN’s first four Oberon class submarines was well underway in the UK.See https://www.navy.gov.au/node
To explore these early discussions in Australia about the potential for nuclear propulsion for RAN submarines access the link to the link below. This will show how the nuclear propulsion question is far from new and that Australia long ago considered whether the RAN should acquire nuclear powered submarines. This issue is seemingly divorced entirely from questions of whether or not Australia should pursue a civil nuclear industry or obtain nuclear-powered weapons. In light of the recent AUKUS discussion, it is important to realise the historical background behind nuclear propulsion in the RAN and to highlight that the question has been asked before. What follows is a brief examination of the nuclear-powered submarine discussions being held at high level in the 1960s by certain areas of Defence.
Download the explanatory document here https://www.navy.gov.au/media-room/publications/nuclear-powered-submarines-australia-origin-stories
MMHN BOARD member Steve Walker, CEO of BIA(Vic) reports his visit to the 2023 Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart recommending that maritime heritage enthusiasts pencil in February 2025 into their diaries for a visit to Hobart for the next Wooden Boat Festival.Steve very much enjoyed the 2023 event was spectacular and he congratulates the organisers for what was a great celebration and event in 2023.“If you like your wooden boats mixed in with a classic maritime backdrop, in a beautiful waterfront city with some excellent infrastructure, along with great food, music and other entertainment, it’s an even stronger case to attend in 2025. There were also boat building displays and demos, wood crafting activations, kids boat building challenges, infotainment talks, event merchandise, sailing events, a maritime marketplace, Tassie seafood, a shipwright’s village, Tasmanian beer, and of course some Tall Ships. For those who missed out on this years event, the Festival Organisers has produced an interesting video.
See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlfPTSCdBxQ Lucky maritime enthusiasts enjoyed the opportunity to sail the heritage Tall Wooden Ship James Craig (1874) on the 10 day voyage from Sydney to Hobart and the 10 day voyage back from Hobart to Sydney.
MMHN Director Martin Dixon represents MMHN Australian Maritime Museums Council (AMMC) Board which met recently – the Council’s first ‘in person’ workshop post Covid. The AMMC conducted a Workshop in Hobart. About 30 participants from all states and territories (except Queensland) took part in a series of panel discussions, presentations events.
Martin said ‘The standout for me was the quality, passion and experience of the delegates from their respective jurisdictions. They work in a range of maritime heritage settings which receive a whole range of support and funding to preserve, enhance and educate members and visitors to their facilities and activities. The cross pollination through various Workshop’s was really impressive.’
As part of this national roundup, Martin gave a full report on MMHN’s activities, challenges and plans. Martin noted that AMMC Delegates expressed widespread surprised at absence of a major maritime museum in Melbourne – a city like with an irrefutably rich maritime history has no major museum. Martine reports enthusiastic interest in the progress of MMHN’s proposed Maritime Experience Centre and were especially positive about a Docklands location. The AMMC meeting allowed delegates to attend the Wooden Boat Festival. Martin reports that this was his first visit to the Wooden Boat Festival was very successful after a two-year absence.
MMHN thanks Andrew Mackinnon, President of the Naval Historical Society of Australia who shared fascinating information in the latest ‘Three Headed Dog’ newsletter.
MMHN is ever alert of information about ‘women in the maritime sector’ and we were delighted to discover reference to the legendary Ching Shih (AKA Cheng Sao or Zheng Yi Sao) Chinese female pirate, the widow of Cheng whose capability far exceeded that of her husband – or Blackbeard. She commanded the Red Fleet – 1000 large junks and 800 smaller junks and rowboats and an estimated 80,000 men. In comparison, the famed Blackbeard commanded 4 ships and 300 pirates. An East India Company employee, Richard Glasspoole was captured by Ching Shih’s pirates in September 1809 and held until December of that year. His account of his captivity provided data on the pirate fleet at that time. There was no superstition on attached to women being on board ships or any fear that it was bad luck for the ship. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t have been easy for woman, much less a pirate’s widow, to control so many outlaws. Laura Sook Duncombe, author of the book ‘Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas’ claims Ching Shih was without question the greatest pirate who ever lived Ching Shih died in 1844, at the ripe old age of 69.
To explore this topic further see https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/ching-shih-chinese-female-pirate.
For more about The Naval Historical Society (Victorian Chapter) see https://navyhistory.org.au/about/victoria-chapter/
No surprise that heritage stakeholders along the Surf Coast are interested wrecks – and strandings! One such ‘standing’ was reported in the Geelong Advertiser January 21, 1891. The vessel Hereford left London in September 1990 came close to shore and stranded on a reef close to shore near the mouth of Swampy Creek. The captain was known to be capable but the vessel “did not answer well to her helm, and this and a probably strong current had doubtless something to do with it. Good to know that “no one attaches blame to him for the disaster!
You can hear more of this complex ‘rescue’ saga – locals, passengers and cargo at the forthcoming Anglesea and District Historical Society talk (see below), or see https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/149038408
Cause for optimism? Michael Slezak reports (ABC Online24 /2/23) on federal government plans to strengthen protections within globally important waters off the south-east coast of Macquarie Island aligning with its pledge to protect 30% cent of Australia’s land and 30 % of Australia’s oceans by 2030. Obviously the concept of ‘protection’ is complex to both define and enforce. The marine park lies offshore from the isolated sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island (half way between Australia and Antarctica) and extends far out into the Southern Ocean Macquarie Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997 on the basis of its outstanding natural values. The listing includes some of the waters in the Macquarie Island Marine Park and the in-shore waters in the Macquarie Island Marine Reserve, a Tasmanian marine park.Richard Leck, WWF Australia, notes that more than 30 % of Australia’s oceans are already within marine parks, but much of this affords very little real protection.Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, stated “Our proposal is that the waters around Macquarie Island — the whole exclusive economic zone will become marine park which will triple in size, most of which will have high-level protections and total fishing bans”. Note insertion of the phrase “most of this” reflects the commercial reality that two commercial fishing companies already operate targeting Patagonian toothfish “operating at world’s best practice on reducing by catch”.
The proposal allows fishing to continue in areas where the companies currently operate with the possibility for change or expansion in the future. The Minister states “But the surrounding waters would be off-limits to all fishing. “We’ve done an analysis that is showing there are multiple different types of environments in the marine area around Macquarie Island and this proposal helps to put them all into protection”. CSIRO research which considers sustainable fisheries as well as marine conservation argues that there is science supporting the expanded Macquarie marine park proposal and that it “struck the right balance by allowing the existing fishing to continue”. The proposal, will open for public consultation in this month.
Image: The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/feb/23/macquarie-island-marine-park-southern-ocean-australia
MMHN Board member Mike O’Brien reports significant progress on this project – a first for Melbourne and a first for MMHN.
Our intention is that this historically accurate account and beguiling images will boost recognition of their rich maritime heritage in 8–12-year-olds. Wild Dog Publishing advise likely availability for MMHN members this year. Stay tuned for further details in due course. We are delighted to report project support from the Geoffrey Evans Trust and the English Speaking Union.
Essential commodity at sea. Although the exploits of Joshua Slocum, the remarkable 19th century shipwright, seafarer and writer are familiar to North American maritime stakeholders but his name and exploits are the less well known in our waters. Yet, during his pioneering solo circumnavigation of the world 1895–98, Slocum visited Australia in his 36′9″ sloop SPRAY and acquired new sails. In 1900 Slocum in wrote a detailed account of his challenging experiences in ”Sailing Alone Around the World” . Author Stan Grayson refers to Slocum as a “prototypical self-reliant, self-made man.” with “innate and highly developed skills as a seaman, boat handler, and shipmaster”. Yet “throughout his sailing career, Slocum experienced many fortuitous events and near misses” Slocum humbly acknowledged his multiple narrow escapes from disaster as evidence of good fortune as “Slocum’s luck’” which eventually ran out. Slocum vanished at sea 1909. Slocum’s likely course lines are presented below.
Image: Tilbury House Publishers and the New Bedford Whaling Museum
OSSA is presenting an exhibition “Offshore Wind Farms, Oil & Gas, Antarctic, Marine Science” March 9-13 from 10 am- 4 pm at the Mission to Seafarers, Flinders St Melbourne (Take the Flinders St tram heading towards Docklands,)
On Saturday March 11, OSSA Board invites all maritime enthusiasts to “Meet the people who work on these ships and hear their stories” at a sausage sizzle – a marvellous opportunity to learn about future careers – hopefully stimulate a new generation of maritime enthusiasts.
The Public Records Office of Victoria alerted MMHN to an exhibition at the ANU Archives currently in Canberra – but accessible online) “Struggle Solidarity and Unity: 150 Years of Maritime Unions in Australia.”
Note also that on 21 March at 6 pm Prof. Diane Kirkby is presenting the ANU Archives 2023 Annual Lecture ‘Here to Stay!’: Militancy and Longevity in Australia’s Maritime Labour History. “The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is celebrating 150 years of unbroken organisation. The MUA is proud of this longevity and stories from its militant past. ‘Here to Stay!’ is a powerful rallying cry, given credence by the union tracing its origins back to a time when shipping was by sail, conditions were harsh and dangerous, and hard fought for labour protections were driven by men of vision and determination. Knowing the union’s history empowers unionists to build endurance and persevere against a continuing power imbalance in their industry.
The MUA’s longevity is also important for Australia’s democratic history. From the major maritime strike in the pre-federation decade of the 1890s, to the 1998 ‘strike that changed Australia’, the waterfront has been the flashpoint for nationally significant confrontations. Their militancy and activism on behalf of social justice and international causes – Indigenous rights, Indonesian independence, against apartheid, fascism, and war in Vietnam – have made them leaders in progressive politics. How we write this history from the records – including photographs -and what we learn from it, opens a window on to questions of national and international significance.” The venue is the Auditorium room 1.28, Research School of Social Sciences Building (146), Ellery Crescent, ANU. The lecture will be recorded and made accessible online after the event.
This is to alert maritime organisations and maritime heritage enthusiasts to the opportunity to register their events before April 10. The Australian Heritage Festival is the country’s largest community-driven celebration of heritage. The theme this year is to ”tell the stories of who we are, celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Victoria’s First Peoples, tales that tell of place, buildings, natural and cultural landscapes, storied objects, oral histories and cultural traditions”.
Organisers are encouraged to provide opportunities for the community to actively engage in heritage, uncover untold histories and reflect on the stories that shape our future. Festival attendees are invited to be curious about our shared histories and tales of people, place and culture so that together, Australian’s might share more stories and connections than ever before. The NT Heritage Festival will run between Tuesday 18 April to Thursday 18 May 2023.
MMHN Board Member, Commodore Greg Yorke has alerted is to the forthcoming Open Day March 19 at HMAS Cerberus, at Crib Point, on the Mornington Peninsula. HMAS Cerberus is the RAN premier training facility which has been serving our island nation for for more than 100 years. The establishment will be open between 10 am and 2 pm – This is free but tickete event.To register: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/2023-hmas-cerberus-open-day-tickets-440751779437
imports equate to about 16 per cent of GDP; exports make up about 20 per cent
- shipping accounts for 99 per cent of this trade by volume
- in 2018-19: – just over 6000 cargo ships made about 34 000 calls to Australia
– ports handled 1.7 billion tonnes of freight including 5.1 million containers – cargo moved was worth close to $573 billion
- by 2050 the containerised freight task is forecast to more than triple at the Port of Brisbane, nearly triple at the Port of Melbourne and increase by two and a half times at Port Botany in Sydney.
Maritime Organisational stakeholders include:
- Maritime unions: MUA (Maritime Union of Australia), AMOU (Australian Maritime Officers Union), AIMPE (Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers)
- Domestic logistics industry unions: TWU (Transport Workers Union), AWU (Australian Workers Union), RTBU (Rail, Tram and Bus Union)
- International standards and policy organisations: IMO (International Maritime Organisation), ISO (International Standards Organisation), WCO (World Customs Organisation)
- Road vehicle regulation — encompassing licencing, compliance and performance-based standards for heavy vehicles
- Peak cargo industry bodies: APSA (Australian Peak Shippers Association), FTA (Freight Trade Alliance)
Benchmarking in 2021 a World Bank study benchmarked the performance of 351 container ports based on large data international ports – which critically omitted data on landside operations. Australia did not rank well. Despite this gap, the PC used data in this report to look at why Australian ports apparently performed so poorly. This Report is, therefore, silent on how Australian ports perform in this sphere of operations. However, Australian ports anecdotally compared well with international ports for landside operations, but there is little to no public data to support this.
Regarding landside operations – container ports in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Fremantle operate under light-touch regulatory regimes and these jurisdictions have reserved the right to impose more comprehensive economic regulation. In contrast, the Port of Melbourne is both the most heavily regulated and most commonly complained about container port. See https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/maritime-logistics/report Note KEY Recommendations appear on P.39.
Image: PC Key operations and hardware in container terminals
In February 2023 AMSA and the Navy executed an MOU aiming to streamline the conversion of civilian vessels to those operating for government and defence purposes. Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond AM, RAN and AMSA, CEO Mr Mick Kinley, signed a MOU which provides the process to move vessels from Australia’s civilian regulation authority (known as Flag administration) to operate under a Defence Flag administration. The MOU will allow a streamlined process for moving vessels from Australian Flag State regulations to Australian Defence Force Regulations, therefore giving the ADF access to a much broader range of vessels capable of operating under their requirements particularly in times of crisis or national need. Vice Admiral Hammond observed,.Australia is a three-ocean island trading nation. Our seaborne supply chains and undersea infrastructure are the lifeblood of our economy – this underpins our way of life as a maritime nation. The Pacific Support Vessel, ADV Reliant is cited as an example of what his MOU will enable. ADV Reliant was procured from the commercial market via a rapid acquisition process, quickly transferred from civilian to Defence Flag administration, enabling its timely and flexible employment in support of Australia’s Pacific partners.
News on the future of this iconic yet neglected maritime infrastructure located at the western tip of North Wharf which contributed greatly to the prosperity of the Port of Melbourne – until primary operations of Victoria Docks shifted elsewhere. he original tower, a timber octagonal structure, was first built in Victoria Harbour in 1934. This was replaced in 1966 by the tower standing today to coordinate shipping, towage pilots and emergency services in the busy port. MMHN has been staunchly advocating form action on this generating asset. Some progress is being made. MMHN has plenty of ideas for appropriate re-purposing this tower – but we are concentrating right now on ensuring that it is not neglected to the point at which demolition is the only option.
What has happened? Development Victoria, the responsible authority, has recently completed a ‘condition audit’ of the tower and is focused on implementing a ‘maintenance program’ in 2023 to preserve this important asset while DV resolve a ‘preferred strategy’ for its long-term use. MMHN looks forward to seeing the detail of the audit.
In conclusion – please consider literally ‘out of the blue’, a rare, actually unprecedented appeal to individuals or organisations who may be in a position to offer a financial grant to support and sustain MMHN advocacy, We seek 20 Heritage Partners willing to commit to a financial contribution of $550 p.a.As an inaugural Heritage Partner, benefits include acknowledgement that you or your group are proactively supporting this unique community-based advocacy network intent upon achieving due recognition that Australia is an island with a rich maritime past, and a promising maritime present – and most crucially – an exciting maritime future. If you so wish links to your preferred website or portal will appear on the MMHN website on the Heritage Partners Page. You will receive Invitations to all MMHN functions and we will endeavour to assist your work where possible. A reminder that MMHN has tax deductibility status.
To recap: In becoming a Heritage Partners, you or your group will be:
- Supporting a great community-based volunteer advocacy network
- Recognising and celebrating Melbourne’s rich maritime heritage – particularly with young people
- Supporting Melbourne’s diverse maritime & logistics industry sector and community-based heritage sector groups.
- Encouraging awareness of and engagement with the maritime environment as well as maritime career prospects
For further detail see https://mmhn.org.au/maritime-melbourne/
Until next time,
Kind regards and do keep well.
Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network