Tony Kevin, author of A Certain Maritime Incident: the Sinking of SIEV X, writes:

Yesterday John Gill wrote: I believe that the acronym SIEV-X stands for the
“10th suspected illegal entry vessel” detected in that particular
calendar year, and not as described in your report. Other media outlets
have used the acronym as if it is the boat’s actual name, so at least
you have got closer than most.”

I first coined the term “SIEV X” (meaning Suspected Ilegal Entry
Vessel, Unknown) in my first-ever media piece on the subject, published
in the
Canberra Times on 25 March 2002 – Twisting tale of the dog that didn’t

The ADF had begun to feed new data into the Senate Committee into a
Certain Maritime Incident, in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the
committee that, even if childen had not been thrown overboard by their
parents on the particular asylum-seeker boat that HMAS Adelaide
intercepted (Olong, aka SIEV 4), they allegedly had been so abused by
their parents on other such boats intercepted during the ADF’s 2001
border protection campaign, Operation Relex.

This was how the Senate first came to learn that no fewer than 12 boats
had been intercepted by Operation Relex between September 2001 and
January 2002 – boats that the ADF had labelled SIEV 1 through to SIEV 12. Defence
did not like my term SIEV X initially – with its message that this was
a SIEV they had failed to detect in their operational area – but
eventually accepted it as a convenient acronym. The media followed suit.

The reason for Defence’s initial dislike of the term SIEV X became all
too clear three months later in June 2002, when the meeting notes of
Jane Halton’s People Smuggling Taskforce for 22 October
2001 showed that SIEV X had then been expected, under the designated
number “SIEV 8.” But a week later, after the sinking of the boat we
now know as SIEV X had been officially confirmed in PST minutes, that
numerical marker 8 was transferred to a later SIEV boat that arrived
on 27 October – thereby ensuring an unbroken official SIEV series 1 to

Defence went to great pains in 2002 to try to bulldoze the Committee
into accepting that SIEV X was never known as SIEV 8. But anyone who
reads the PST minutes can see at once that it was. If ever this goes to
a judicial inquiry, one of the inquiry’s first tasks will be to demand
to see all the ADF’s data on the first SIEV 8.

On SIEV X, unlike the other SIEVs most of which carry known
names, all identifying names or registration numbers had been carefully
removed. To this day, no survivor can recall seeing any name, number or
port of origin on this boat – further evidence that it was intended to
sink and leave no incriminating traces. Until the mystery of the boat’s
true name is revealed, it will remain SIEV X: an iconic term now,
that conveys all the mystery and horror of this story.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey