Nepean Naval and Maritime Museum

- Museum Home Page - Patrol Boat Index - NAA Sub-Section Home Page -

HMAS Samarai P85

HMAS Samarai crestHMAS Samarai P 85, named after the island of Samarai and its former town, was an Attack class patrol boat of the Royal Australian Navy.  Completed in 1968, the vessel was one of five assigned to the RAN's Papua New Guinea (PNG) Division.

A member of the Nepean Blue Mountains Sub-Section who served on the Samarai

Bill Ross
Bill Ross
Samarai arrived in Port Moresby on 16 April 1968, before travelling with her sister ship Aitape for her home port at the RAN base HMAS Tarangau at Los Negros Island, Manus Province on 3 January 1968.

Primary roles of the new patrol boats were fisheries protection and sea training, but also undertook search and rescue, medical evacuation and monitoring of navigational aids roles.

The ship's company was made up of both Australian and PNG servicemen.

Prior to the arrival of the Attack-class patrol boats, surveillance of PNG waters was conducted by small coastal craft and occasional visits by larger RAN warships, but the PNG Division was now able to chase and apprehend vessels suspected of illegal fishing.

Samarai was one of the five Attack-class patrol boats of the RAN PNG Division transferred to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force's (PNGDF) Maritime Element (now Maritime Operations Element) on 14 November 1974 when the PNGDF took over maritime functions from the RAN.  They formed the PNGDF Patrol Boat Squadron based at Manus.

Samarai was paid off in 1987 and was then used as a parts hulk.

Donít come the raw prawn here, mate

by: Neil Wiseman. The Courier-Mail from the Sunday Mail (Qld)

10 April 2011

Fishermen and the government once drew a line in the water over the right to harvest Australia's best-loved special occasion crustacean,

Doug Anthony had a warning for these blokes and their mates: toe the line and don't get into a fishing war with foreign vessels in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The prawning industry in the far north was at flashpoint in July 1968, following reports that shots were fired at a Russian fisheries ship, the Van Gogh, as it swept through the Australian fleet in the Gulf.

Primary Industry Minister Anthony, later the deputy prime minister, was in the port town of Karumba, centre of Australia's fishing operations in the Gulf, to open a prawn processing plant.

Most of the crews came ashore for the opening ceremony, and Mr. Anthony took the opportunity to give them a 10-minute lecture on avoiding an international incident.

The prawners heard the minister out in silence. No one denied the Russians had been fired on.

The Courier-Mail reported that Mr. Anthony "told 100 bearded, barefoot prawning skippers and crew, 'You haven't the right to take the law into your own hands ... you need to understand and take lessons in understanding international fishing laws'."

In Karumba, everyone was making a quid. The wives and girlfriends of the boat crews were flat out in the processing plants.

Foreign vessels had fished the Gulf peacefully and uninterrupted for many years, and it was the Australian rush to cash in on the prawns that triggered the clashes.

Australia sent a navy patrol boat, the Attack, to shadow the Russian ship, and a second, HMAS Samurai, was about to join the fun.

"Australia has not historically used the Gulf, and foreign fisherman have...you will have to learn to live with this trouble for the moment," Mr. Anthony told his mostly unimpressed audience.

Craig Mostyn, whose processing plant Mr. Anthony was opening, had fired off a blistering telegram to Prime Minister John Gorton after the Van Gogh incident "to alert Australians to the danger of their fishing heritage arising from unchecked intrusion by foreign vessels, which should be under the control of their Commonwealth Government".

Then he let Mr. Anthony have the other barrel: "Neither for taking this action (the telegram) nor for being Australian have I or my colleagues any intention of apologizing;"

Things were getting a bit willing at an event that, when penciled in the minister's diary months earlier, was probably seen as an occasion for ribbon-cutting and a couple of mutually congratulatory speeches.

Mr. Anthony countered by pointing out that protecting Australia's prawning interests prompted the Federal Government to take advantage of changes in international law by claiming rights over marine life to the edge of the continental shelf, extending its exclusive fishing zone and closing small bays to foreign fishing.

And then, prawners and port towns being what they are, everyone went off for a few beers.

It was Craig Mostyn who prompted the revival in the fortunes of Karumba in the early 1960ís when about all the town had was a lodge for recreational fishermen and hunting parties and an abattoir.

The lodge had served earlier as accommodation for the staff of Empire flying boats because a wharf at Karumba was one of the stops on the route to London.

Mr. Mostyn wanted to test a theory that the annual big summer rains of the wet season provided enough fresh water for the Gulf to create the ideal breeding grounds for banana prawns.

Two seasons of trials showed he was right, and the first commercial catch came ashore in 1964. An export fishery was established and people came from all over Australia to get work.