THE HMAS Otama Submarine was expected to take its final voyage on Monday (19 September) to be literally scooped from its resting place at Crib Point and shipped off to be scrapped.
Supporters of the submarine have labelled the move “devastating”, but their desperate pleas to Park Victoria were unheard and the submarine was loaded onto a semi-submersible in the early hours of Friday morning.
Max Bryant, president of the volunteer-run Western Port Oberon Association, Victorian Maritime Centre – which took ownership of the vessel 22 years ago to be the centrepiece of a tourism attraction – said it was a sad day for the entire Crib Point community.
“The whole community is upset, we technically own the submarine, so I just don’t know how Parks Victoria and Defence acquisitions can do this,” he said.
Parks Victoria has blamed the vessel’s deterioration for its decision to scrap it, but this is disputed by the association, which said the submarine was water-tight in good internal condition.
And in an email on Thursday to supporters, state president of the Australian-American Association, Sam Muscat, put out a last-minute call to save the vessel, urging supporters to write to Parks Victoria to “share your outrage at the actions of this department”.
He said the Otama should have been relocated across the road to the Victorian Maritime Centre so that “we all can remember and learn about the many sacrifices that were made to retain our freedom and to remind ourselves further that this came at a cost to those who served”.
“This is precisely what the Western Port Oberon Association – Victorian Maritime Centre have been pushing for several years,” he said.
“Whatever reason, this has just fallen on deaf ears. One keeps asking himself Why? Why is Parks Victoria prepared to spend so much taxpayer money when for less than a quarter of the cost, move the Otama across the road.”
The HMAS Otama was an Oberon-class submarine of the Royal Australian Navy. Built-in Scotland, the submarine was the last of the class to enter service when commissioned into the RAN in 1978.
Bryant said the WPOA had fought for years to attract money to restore and maintain the vessel, with taxpayers now having to foot the $5 million to have it taken away and destroyed.
He said it should have become a national memorial to those who served, for the two seamen that died on board, and to remember those who sacrificed their lives to maintain our freedom.
“Yes, this is a sad moment for Crib Point, but it is devastating for those who have worked and fought so hard to keep this part of maritime history alive,” he said.