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Lifebuoy from MV TAMPA

Date: Late 20th century- Early 21st century
Overall: 750 mm, 6.7 kg
Medium: Plastic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Lifebuoy
Object No: 00038284

User Terms

    This plastic lifebuoy from is linked to an event that ignited national and international debate on Australia's immigration policy. The recent arrival of boat people in Australian waters has become a highly emotive and politicised issue. One of the most famous incidents was the rescue of asylum seekers by the Norwegian cargo carrier MV TAMPA in August 2001.
    SignificanceThe life buoy was on board the cargo carrier during the series of events known as 'the TAMPA incident' in 2001, when the Australian government refused to let the rescued asylum seekers land on Australian soil.
    HistoryThe MV TAMPA is best remembered in public consciousness as the Norwegian cargo ship that rescued 438 asylum seekers in 2001, sparking both an Australian and worldwide political storm.

    Between 26 August and 3 September 2001, the MV TAMPA made international news when its captain, Arne Rinnan, was caught between saving lives at sea and Australia's domestic policy on asylum seekers. The MV TAMPA was on its way from Australia to Singapore when it received a distress alert from Australian Maritime Safety Authority, after the aircraft based surveillance operation Coastwatch saw a small boat with more than 80 people on board adrift in the vicinity of the MV TAMPA.

    Captain Rinnan immediately altered course and found a small fishing boat with 'SOS' and 'HELP' painted on its roof. There were 438 people on board asking to be taken to a Western country. With the support of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Line, who owned TAMPA, Captain Rinnan headed for Christmas Island, where the ship was denied permission to enter Australian territorial waters. The MV TAMPA then waited at the territorial limit.

    Many of the asylum seekers were unwell and the situation deteriorated. Captain Rinnan issued a 'Mayday' signal, and when he received no response he sailed towards Christmas Island. When he crossed into Australian territorial waters the MV TAMPA was boarded by Australian soldiers, ho asked the captain to turn the ship around. Captain Rinnan refused. The asylum seekers were eventually transferred to an Australian naval ship and sent to New Zealand and Nauru. The MV TAMPA then continued its voyage.

    When security legislation was passed which specifically named the ship, the MV TAMPA became part of Australian law. The Boarder Protection (Validation and Enforcement Powers) Act 2001 describes itself as 'An Act to validate the actions of the Commonwealth and others in relation to the MV TAMPA and other vessels, and to provide increased powers to protect Australia's borders, and for related purposes.'
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Lifebuoy from MV TAMPA


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