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HMAS Canberra Focuses on Environmental Stewardship during RIMPAC 2022

20 July 2022

From Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN - Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Somaia Ahmadi is an Assistant Marine Engineer Officer whose ancillary duty as the environmental officer onboard Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02) is to ensure all environmental matters are taken care of. Waste management is her primary focus onboard and during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 the ship went to extra lengths to adhere to the environmental requirements of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam while HMAS Canberra participates in RIMPAC 2022 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

When Canberra pulled into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Jun. 29, the pipe sounded across the ship “all spare hands muster for garbos”, as members onboard made their way down to the large bins in mass numbers.

‘Garbo’s’ is the colloquial term used onboard for garbage sorting, which for Ahmadi, is an important ancillary duty she holds as the assistant marine engineer officer.

“My main concern is the waste onboard, especially when we are at sea and need a way to manage it carefully to sort and store it safely until we arrive in port,” said Ahmadi. “The standard practices we use for waste management don’t usually change, but when we came alongside in Pearl Harbor, we had a big task ahead to make sure we followed the rules of the port authority, which is why we had all spare hands to help.”

The base port authority required the already double-bagged items to be further bagged into special quarantine bags and secured with cable ties before being handed over.

“It can be quite hard at times after being at sea for a number of weeks and the smell can be quite putrid, but everyone got the job done really well,” said Ahmadi.

HMAS Canberra has a hard plastics shredder which finely shreds the items which are then compressed into cubes and stored until they can be appropriately disposed of.

The twice daily task of sorting and storing waste is an activity Ahmadi oversees in her role as the ship can gather 200-400 kilo grams per day depending on the number of personnel onboard.

Canberra also has an extensive human waste sewerage treatment plant much like systems ashore, where waste is received into various tanks and processed to the International Maritime Organization’s standard before being discharged at sea.

“Aerobic bacteria is always present which needs oxygen to grow so there are bubblers underneath to assist in the process,” said Ahmadi. “You can actually see it all working through the glass, which is pretty interesting. The harmful bacteria and organic matter is all broken down by the aerobic bacteria and it also passes through very fine filters and then depending on where you are in the world you can then safely discharge it.”

HMAS Canberra is at sea for three weeks completing the tactical sea phase of RIMPAC and will return to Pearl Harbor for another port visit where once again it will be "spare hands to garbos" to ensure safe disposal of all her waste.

Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, four submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 29- Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971.


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