Australian Launches Revamped Pacific Patrol Boat Program

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Maritime security in Fiji, 12 other countries, to be enhanced

By Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, June 18, 2014) – Fiji will soon benefit from a new $2 billion [US$1.9 billion] Pacific Patrol Boat (PPB) program unveiled yesterday by Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston.

The program aims to significantly strengthen security in the pacific region says the Australian Government website.

"The Pacific Patrol Boat Program is an important pillar of the Australian Government’s commitment to working with our regional partners to enable cohesive security cooperation on maritime surveillance, including in fisheries protection and trans-national crime," Bishop said.

Defence Minister Johnston said his ministry would replace the current fleet of patrol boats for all PPB members which included Fiji because the current 22 patrol boats gifted to 12 Pacific Island countries from 1987 to 1997 were now approaching their end of service life.

"Defence will replace the current fleet of patrol boats for all current PPB members with the addition of a new member, Timor-Leste (East Timor), which has been invited to join the program, evidence of Australia’s growing defence cooperation program with that country," Johnston said.

"This new program will involve the construction of more than 20 steel, all purpose patrol vessels that will considerably enhance the maritime security of our Pacific and regional partners," he said.

"Australia has a fundamental strategic interest in the security and stability of Pacific island nations."

Johnston said the rugged Australian-made patrol boats are worth $594 million with through life sustainment and personnel costs estimated at $1.38 billion over 30 years.

In the coming months discussions will be held with PPB states on the individual allocation of patrol vessels.

Replacement patrol boats will be offered to all current participating states including Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Cook Islands and new member Timor-Leste.

Under the program, Defence will undertake an open tender for the procurement which includes an option for ongoing sustainment and crew training.

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