The latest enhancement to Navy's submarine search and rescue capability steamed into her new home at Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia recently. As one of two ships being acquired to further enhance the capability, MV BESANT will be the submarine escape gear ship.

Named after Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, Commanding Officer of First World War submarine, AE1, the vessel will be used to provide an early intervention role in the event of a disabled submarine.

The 83m ship will embark a side-scan sonar, and the SCORPIO SC45 remotely operated vehicle to conduct surveys, damage assessment, debris removal from around the rescue seat and deploy transponders for the LR5 rescue vehicle tracking system, and recompression chambers to provide medical support to submarine escapees.  

Submarine Escape and Rescue Manager, Commander Ken Marr, said that the delivery of the ships would enhance Navy's existing capability.

"Planning is well underway for BLACK CARILLION 15, our annual submarine and escape and rescue exercise, where MV BESANT will play an important part as we utilise and incorporate her many functionalities into our existing procedures.

"The longer 93m rescue gear ship, MV STOKER, is currently undergoing final fit-out and is scheduled to join MS BESANT in early Jan 16.
"Both vessels will provide more flexibility to respond," Commander Marr said.

Both ships will be operated by Defence Maritime Services and will provide a long term and extremely capable role in supporting submarine escape and rescue activities. Being larger ships than the existing vessel, MV Seahorse Standard, the ability to embark more personnel such as medical and other rescue system members will ensure sustained operations can be conducted at sea. Enhanced onboard medical facilities and the ability to accommodate a full submarine crew will also ensure the best medical support is provided.

The acquisition of MV BESANT and MV STOKER will replace the existing submarine escape and rescue support vessel, MV Seahorse Standard, which may be redeployed to the east coast of Australia in late 2015.