Australia’s programme of assistance to Pacific Island nations is picking up pace with shipbuilder Austal delivering its sixth Guardian class patrol boat, RFNS Savenaca.
The vessel, one of 21 to be gifted to Pacific Island nations by Australia, was handed over to the Government of Fiji at a ceremony at Austal’s Henderson shipyard south of Perth.
Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, attended the handover along with Australian government ministers and Chief of Defence Force, General Angus Campbell.
Austal Chief Executive David Singleton said the first Guardian-class Patrol Boat delivery for 2020 highlighted continuing gains in productivity and efficiency, which is delivering a new naval vessel every three months.
Singleton said: “Now in the third year of production, the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project has really hit its stride.
“This sixth Guardian-class Patrol Boat (benefits) from a number of innovative production processes that have reduced production time, while maintaining quality.”
Attending with Prime Minister Bainimarama, were the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto and the Chief of Navy Captain Humphrey Tawake.
The 39.5 metre, steel monohull patrol boat provides the Fiji Navy with an improved naval asset to carry out border patrols, regional policing, search and rescue and many other operations domestically and internationally.
Guardian boats are faster than their predecessor class, with improved seakeeping, better amenities and an enhanced mission capability, including an integrated stern launch and recovery system.
The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) Project covers 21 vessels valued at more than A335 million.
Twelve Pacific Island nations including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Timor Leste will receive the vessels through to 2023.
The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project supports more than 200 direct jobs at Austal Australia and more than 200 indirect jobs nationally, through approximately 450 Australian businesses contracted.
Singleton said: “Austal Australia’s delivery of the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project is achieving 68.5 per cent Australian Industry Content, which is outstanding for a project of this size and complexity.
“Austal, and our valued suppliers, contractors and business partners are adding real value to Australian industry and contributing to genuine sovereign shipbuilding capability.”
Austal’s service centre in Cairns is providing in-service support to the growing Guardian-class Patrol Boat fleet, with more than 40 people now employed.
Picture: Austal/RFNS Savenaca
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