Military personnel from New Zealand and Canada have recovered 50 unexploded World War II-vintage munitions, including a 250-pound bomb, as part of an operation to make communities in the Solomon Islands safe.
A combined team of divers from the Royal New Zealand Navy’s diving and mining countermeasures support ship HMNZS Manawanui and Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts from the Canadian Defence Force found the unexploded ordnance in villages and waterways in Sunlight Channel in the Russell Islands as part of Operation Render Safe 2016.
The area was the site of a World War II US Army Air Corps airstrip and ammunition base, which was used to support the campaign against the Japanese forces.
“There is a lot of pride among the ship’s crew that Manawanui was able to play an important role in creating a safer environment in the Solomon Islands during previous operations, and that they are again playing an important role this time,” Lieutenant Commander (LTCDR) Muzz Kennett, the Commanding Officer of Manawanui, said.
“The ship is serving as a support platform for the removal and safe disposal of unexploded ordnance. This involves work on land as well as at sea.”
LTCDR Kennett said all the unexploded munitions except for the 250-pound bomb had been detonated safely underwater. The bomb will be disposed of at a later date.
Manawanui’s crew is also working with an officer from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to talk to Solomon Islanders living in coastal villages to obtain information on underwater locations that might have unexploded munitions.
“The work being carried out during this operation will also help strengthen working relationships with international partners and enhance positive relationships with the Solomon Islands,” LTCDR Kennett said.
Operation Render Safe, which runs from 15 September – 7 October, is a biennial operation led by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that aims to dispose safely of explosive remnants of World War II.
About 120 ADF personnel are working with 40 specialists from New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, with the cooperation of the Solomon Islands Government and in partnership with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
A similar operation in 2014 cleared 109 sites on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville of 2293 ammunition items, containing more than 16 tonnes of explosives.