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Framed collage presented to MV TAMPA from the Australian Special Air Service Regiment

Date: 2001
Overall: 670 × 670 × 35 mm
Image: 525 × 525 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA
Object Name: Collage
Object No: 00054782
Related Place:Christmas Island,

User Terms

    This framed collage was presented to the ship's master and company of the Norwegian cargo ship MV TAMPA from the Third Herd, Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), in 2001.
    SignificanceThis collage connects us to a dramatic and controversial episode in MV TAMPA's working life, representing the tension between international obligations for safety of life at sea (SOLAS) and Australia’s domestic policy on refugees and asylum seekers. The inscription, 'Thanks for your friendship and assistance', attests to the personal relationships that developed between the ship's crew and the Australian special officers that were ordered to storm the vessel during the TAMPA affair of August 2001.
    HistoryOn 26 August 2001 the crew of the Norwegian cargo ship MV TAMPA rescued 433 asylum seekers from their stricken fishing boat, KM PALAPA 1, in the Indian Ocean. Although TAMPA was not licensed to carry more than 50 people its captain, Arne Rinnan, changed course to help the asylum seekers, who were mainly from Afghanistan, which was then under Taliban rule.

    Under pressure from some of the desperate asylum seekers Captain Rinnan headed for the offshore Australian territory of Christmas Island, but was denied permission to enter Australian waters. When the health of some passengers deteriorated Captain Rinnan sent a Mayday signal and sailed toward Christmas Island. TAMPA was boarded by Australian special forces who ordered the ship to turn around.

    Following an intense political standoff the asylum seekers were transferred to HMAS MANOORA. Most were taken to the Pacific island of Nauru as part of Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’ (2001–08). This aimed to prevent refugees from reaching Australian territory, where they could legally claim asylum, to detain and process them offshore in cooperating foreign countries. A small number of asylum seekers from TAMPA were eventually granted refugee status and resettled in Australia.

    In 2002 Captain Rinnan and TAMPA's crew and owner received the Nansen Refugee Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The award honoured their commitment to the principle of rescue at sea, despite the risk of long delays and large financial losses for the ship's operator Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

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