The Australian government has handed over the first of twenty-one new build Guardian Class patrol boats being delivered under the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement program to regional neighbours.
Built by Austal Ships in Henderson, WA the first recipient will be Australia’s former territory Papua New Guinea which is scheduled to receive four vessels.
The lead vessel has been named HMPNGS Ted Diro, in honour of the first commander of the Papua New Guinean defence force, and replaces the recently decommissioned HMPNGS Rabaul. The new vessel will have a maximum speed of 20 knots and is designed for a crew of 23 sailors and officers. Though delivered unarmed it has the capacity to mount an autocannon on the foredeck and two machine guns on the bridge wings. The new class also features a stern ramp for launching pursuit and boarding vessels.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, the Australian Minister for Defence Industry, Steven Ciobo, MP said the project highlighted the close relationship between Australia and her Pacific Nation neighbours.
“These Guardian Class Patrol Boats are being gifted to 12 Pacific nations and Timor-Leste as part of Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Program,” he said.
“It really speaks to the nature of the relationship not only between Australia and PNG, but also between Australia and all Pacific island countries and Timor Leste.”
The total build project for twenty one vessels is worth more than $350 million, a significant investment by the Australian government to support regional security and also its own domestic shipbuilding industry. As well as the Henderson Yard constructing the vessels, Austal has secured a seven year maintenance contract for the fleet from its Cairns Yard.
The vessels replace those delivered under the Pacific Forum project that were donated from the late 1980s, with the Guardian class incorporating many changes and features based on experiences with the earlier vessels. These include easier capacity for simple maintenance to be done as the basic facilities available at their homeports and improved fuel efficiency to ensure the recipient nations can keep them at sea as much as possible. The second vessel is expected to be commissioned in April 2019 and will be delivered to Tuvalu. After that Austal expects to deliver a vessel every four months through to 2023.