Canadian Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialists in the Solomon Islands

Navy News / September 28, 2016

By: Cpl M. Doran and Capt A. Rosendahl, Australian Defence Forces

Canadian clearance divers are sharing skills and knowledge with New Zealand sailors while they are attached to Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Manawanui during Operation RENDER SAFE in the Solomon Islands.

The ongoing operation aims to reduce the hazards of explosive remnants of war and enhance safety across the Southwest Pacific.

Canadian Dive Team Lead, Petty Officer 2nd (PO2) Class David Cheeseman of Fleet Diving Unit - Atlantic, said his team has conducted explosive ordnance disposal with Australian and New Zealand military forces and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

“We’ve been very successful in discovering unexploded ordnance below the waterline while on HMNZS Manawanui and disposing of it,” he said. “Last week we found six 100-pound air-dropped bombs and another 50 unexploded projectiles. Some were just lying on the sea bed, which meant we could move them to a safer area to blow them, but a few were embedded so we blew them in location.”

PO2 Cheeseman said Operation RENDER SAFE was important because it gave the local communities a safer environment to live in.

“It’s fantastic to get out and do our job as clearance divers and know we are making the areas around the Solomon Islands safer for the population,” he said. “Especially for the younger children who may not know what these remnants of war are and may injure or kill themselves.”

There have been 12 islanders killed by explosive remnants of war in the past decade either by finding ordnance accidently or by trying to make fish bombs.

The Royal Solomon Island Police Force deal with around 10,000 explosive remnants of war every year.

Constable Lawrence Waneinad from the Royal Solomon Island Police Force also joined the crew on HMNZS Manawanui for Operation RENDER SAFE.

PO2 Cheeseman said one of Constable Waneinad’s main roles was to speak to the local villagers to find out where the unexploded ordnance was and to assist in ordnance identification.

“The villagers are usually excited to see us come ashore, but when we try to speak Pidgin they then open up and are only too happy to point us in the right direction,” he said.

Military personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and the United Kingdom are participating in Operation RENDER SAFE.

The Canadian Armed Forces has deployed approximately 18 personnel to the Solomon Islands, including combat engineers from the Canadian Army, clearance divers from the Royal Canadian Navy and aviation technicians from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

In the first week of the current operation, 1389 items of unexploded ordnance or 3.7 tonnes were recovered for disposal by the multinational teams.

This year the operation is taking place from September 7 to October 7, 2016, on Guadalcanal, the Florida and Russell Islands.

The Solomon Islands was the scene of heavy fighting during the World War II at sea, on land, and from the air. The islands were also used as a support and ammunition base. As a result, explosives remain as a danger to this day.