DARWIN: Two days after the Tampa incident began, Geoff Brown was asked if he could assist operations on Christmas Island. Within three hours Geoff was on a commercial flight from his home in Darwin to Perth, where he boarded a chartered jet together with lawyer James Neil and the Norwegian Ambassador Ove Thorsheim. Geoff tells WW World what happened next.
“Due to the influx of international media and Australian Government officials, accommodation and vehicle hire was almost impossible. l went to a local accountant’s office and somehow convinced the owner to go to Perth for a holiday so l could rent his office.”
“Each morning at 0400 I communicated with the master and passed information on to Peter Dexter based in Sydney. The government authorities blocked the Tampa’s communications so this was the only way we could communicate with the outside world.”
“The Norwegian Ambassador was excellent and put a lot of pressure on Australia to change their tough stance. Avoiding the media was difficult but we remained unknown until we boarded the Special Air Service (SAS) military zodiac boat heading to the Tampa.”
The Master requested permission from harbour control to depart and they asked if he would wait a couple of minutes as they had arranged fireworks for the Tampa’s departure. The master steered the vessel closer to the coast and then it was full steam ahead for Singapore. The Tampa received messages of thanks from other vessels, sent with congratulations on changing the course of maritime law.”
“It was the most amazing feeling to be involved and see the Wilhelmsen group in action to save 438 people’s lives. The teams in Oslo and Sydney, the master and his crew and all involved were so professional with their decision-making and supporting all their personnel involved. They are memories that will stay with me for a lifetime.”