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Serco Supports RAN Exercise Black Carillon 2018

Serco Defence personnel and vessels played a crucial role in the success of Exercise Black Carillon 2018 (BC18) for the Royal Australian Navy conducted off the coast of Western Australia in November 2018.

The key objective of BC18 was to conduct disabled submarine rescue exercises, utilising:

  • the full submarine rescue system on-board Serco’s rescue ship, MV Stoker
  • the full intervention capability of Serco’s MV Besant to deploy the Portable Side Scan Sonar (PSSS) and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to locate and perform underwater inspections of a disabled submarine

The Serco Defence Fleet Marine Services team worked closely with the RAN and Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) to meticulously plan the exercise.

Week 1

Exercise Black Carillon 2018 began on Monday, 5 November with the loading of the James Fisher Submarine Rescue Service (JFSRS) intervention system onto Serco’s MV Besant. The equipment onboard Besant is used to locate the disabled submarine, check its condition and ensure the rescue hatch is operable in preparation for an evacuation. The equipment includes a Portable Side Scan Sonar (PSSS) and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to perform underwater inspections of a disabled submarine sitting on the sea bed.

With the submarine intervention system onboard, Besant sailed on Wednesday 7 November for two days and our crew conducted workup training and localisation exercises in preparation for the simulated submariner rescue exercise.

Meanwhile in Week 1, the JFSRS submarine rescue system was mobilised onto Serco’s MV Stoker. This suite of equipment includes a submersible rescue vessel – LR5 – that docks with the rescue hatch of a disabled submarine to provide safe evacuation for trapped submariners along with hyperbaric chambers in which evacuated submariners are treated by medical personnel.

Week 2

During the second week of BC18, Serco’s crews on board Besant and Stoker spent five days at sea preparing for the main rescue exercise.

Operational highlights included:

  • Stoker launched the LR5 rescue vessel and conducted docking operations with target plates on the seabed
  • Besant launched the ROV which conducted dives to a depth of 466 metres.

Week 3

The final week at sea, and the culmination of the BC18 Exercise, commenced on Sunday 18 November. Stoker carried a full medical contingent of close to 30 personnel who conducted training for various medical scenarios throughout the week.

On board Besant the team hosted a group of 10 international observers from regional Navies that have an interest in submarine escape and rescue, with some countries intending to gain lessons learnt to apply to their own systems.


  • The LR5 submersible was launched from Stoker and docked with submarine HMAS Sheean which was bottomed on the ocean floor.
  • A hard seal was established between the LR5 and HMAS Sheehan, the escape hatches opened, and RAN personnel were successfully transferred from the submarine to the LR5 rescue vessel.
  • Simulated rescued personnel were then returned to the surface in the LR5 where it was recovered to the deck of Stoker and personnel were transferred directly into the hyperbaric chambers for simulated medical treatment and care.
  • During BC18, Serco vessels transferred all members of the international observer contingent each day from their accommodation on board Besant to Stoker to watch the rescue operations.
  • On 22 November, members of the Serco Defence’s Stirling Inshore Team conducted a VIP passenger transfer using Seahorse Glider from shore, to the Western Australian Exercise Area to meet Besant and Stoker. VIP dignitaries included
  • CDRE Brett Dowsing RAN, the Senior Naval Officer Western Australia. The dignitaries spent the day on board Stoker where they were briefed on BC18 operations and the capabilities of our ships. The group was also launched from Stoker inside the LR5 submersible and participated in a live dive operation.
  • An aero-medical evacuation (AME) simulation exercise was also conducted, with a rescue helicopter transferring a mock patient from Stoker to Fiona Stanley Hospital for emergency treatment

“The specialist maritime capabilities of Serco Defence and the crucial role we play in supporting the RAN were clearly demonstrated during Black Carillon 2018. Congratulations to our masters and crews of Stoker and Besant on the successful completion of a complex and challenging Naval rescue exercise."

Managing Director of Serco Defence
Clint Thomas AM CSC

Key Facts

During BC18, Besant’s and Stoker’s crews each expanded from the usual core crew of 11, to a crew of 20, to support the training and rescue activities, as well as accommodating and supporting the observer personnel on board.

Serco’s crews were supplemented by Serco Stirling’s Inshore Team along with crew sourced from Serco’s pool of qualified mariners.

At the peak of the exercise, there were:

  • 53 personnel on board Besant and
  • 98 personnel on board Stoker.

Catering on board our ships was highly commended by all. During the busiest day of the exercise, Stoker catered lunch for 125 personnel. This included medical staff and simulated patients who were undertaking decompression in hyperbaric chambers on Stoker’s aft deck.

The RAN commended Serco for the manning levels and competency standards that continued to improve with each exercise, ensuring all operations were efficiently executed.