Retirement plans on hold for our HMAS Gladstone
THE HMAS Gladstone has been sent out on one last operation just a week and a half out from her planned decommissioning.
The 22-year-old Fremantle-class patrol boat has been called in to help protect Australia's northern border as part of Operation Resolute, because the Armidale-class patrol boats have been taken off active duty because of safety concerns.
The Gladstone was due to be officially decommissioned in a ceremony on February 16.
A defence spokeswoman said the option to delay the decommissioning was being considered by the Royal Australian Navy in order "to meet obligations for the provision of vessels for Operation Resolute".
The Gladstone Maritime Museum has been waiting to hear if the ship will be given to the city for permanent display and anticipates the unexpected deployment would only delay things by a few weeks.
The ship visited the city for Australia Day celebrations, when it seemed the crew was preparing for the official ceremony where the HMAS Gladstone's colours would be formally pulled down.
Instead, the ship and her crew have been called to monitor the northern border for illegal fishing, immigration, drugs and customs operations.
HMAS Gladstone joins two Fremantle-class patrol boats already assigned to Operation Resolute.
The Armidale-class patrol boats usually assigned to the operation have been placed under "operational restrictions" after a problem with water contamination of the fuel system.
It is the second time the ships have been recalled since the first, HMAS Armidale, was officially commissioned in June 2005.
The Armidale-class patrol boats are supposed to replace the 15 Fremantle-class patrol boats the navy is decommissioning.