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Jervis Bay Armament Depot

The Jervis Bay Armament Depot (JBAD) was planned during the 1980s, but never constructed.

In 1958, the Commonwealth Explosives Port Facilities Committee in its Report on the need for an isolated jetty in New South Wales for the handling of Commonwealth explosives, recommended construction of an explosives wharf on Commonwealth territory in Jervis Bay so as to enable the removal of the most dangerous explosives shipments from Sydney Harbour.

In September 1970, the Flag Officer Commanding, East Australia Area, asked his Area Management Committee to investigate the possibility of relocating the Sydney armament depots to Jervis Bay. (FOCEA minute of 30 September 1970).

Serious planning for JBAD commenced on 17 August 1983 when Mr A. St John and Mr R. Curran were tasked by the Director General of Supply Navy to identify the user requirements for inclusion in a functional design brief. The project was announced by the Prime Minister, as part of the Fleet Base relocation (from Sydney) proposal, on 17 November 1985.

The proposal was to construct an explosives wharf and associated on-shore facilities, to be located at Green Point on the north-eastern shore of Jervis Bay, and an ammunition storage and maintenance depot located some 15 kilometres inland from the wharf, near the Bay's north-western shore.

The wharf was to be capable of ammunitioning ships up to AOR size simultaneously with a minor fleet unit such as a patrol boat. It was also to be capable of handling cargo vessels carrying imported explosives for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The depot was to provide storage for the RAN's east coast stocks of ammunition and guided weapons in earth covered, reinforced concrete storehouses of modern design providing a high degree of assurance that an accidental explosion would not propagate or make stockholdings unserviceable.

Explosives workshops of RAN design, optimised for both efficiency and safety, were to be provided.

As of March 1986 the estimated project cost was $M130, of which $M11 was for equipment.

Planning continued through to 1989. In May 1990 the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (DCNS) advised the Flag Officer Naval Support Command (DCNS 550/90 of 23 May 1990) that "Navy Office has been considering alternative sites for an armament depot should Jervis Bay not be available to the Royal Australian Navy." Issues of cost and particularly environmental acceptability underpinned the decision to seek alternatives.

Watch an ABC Four Corners video "Navy Blues" on the Jervis Bay Armament Depot controversy.

The previous month, DCNS had commissioned a study into the use of Point Wilson Explosives Wharf, and Longlea Magazine (both in Victoria) as an alternative to JBAD. This study found significant cost savings would accrue but also operational penalties arising from remoteness from the Fleet Base in Sydney.

In April 1994, the Government announced its decision to locate the "East Coast Armament Complex" (ECAC) at Point Wilson, subject to satisfactory environmental clearances.

In August 1996 the Minister for Defence asked the Department to examine more cost effective solutions for providing the ECAC.

A proposal based on the Point Wilson option was reviewed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1998.

In the event, the Point Wilson/Longlea proposal was not adopted, although Point Wilson continues to be used for Defence explosives operations. A new wharf was, however, constructed at Twofold Bay (Eden) on the south coast of New South Wales, opening in October 2003. This wharf is a dual use (i.e. military and civilian) facility. It is a modern, concrete decked wharf with a face length of 200m and width of 30m. The wharf is licensed to handle Class 1 Dangerous Goods (explosives) up to a quantity of 30 tonnes Nett Explosives Quantity, and caters for the ammunitioning of RAN ships based or operating on the East Coast.

Also constructed in the Twofold Bay hinterland was an ammunition storage and maintenance depot, 17km inland from the wharf and designed to hold 3 major combatant outfits. There are seven explosive storehouses of varying sizes, one explosive workshop, three truck parking bays, one transfer dolly and container workshop, three non-explosive storage buildings and an office.

The development of the Twofold Bay facilities coincided with the merging in 2001 of RAN, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Australian Army explosives ordnance storage and maintenance facilities, and the contracting out of the operation of these facilities.

As at 2011, the ADF facilities comprised:

Overall, there are effectively 15 depots, as some of the facilities (Myambat and Singleton in NSW and Mount Stuart and Townsville in Queensland) are managed by the contractor as single depots.

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Robert Curran
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