A new $2 billion Pacific Patrol Boat (PPB) Program unveiled on June 17 by Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston aims to significantly strengthen security in the region.
“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 transnational crime,” Minister Bishop said.
“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,” said Senator Johnston.
“The current fleet of 22 patrol boats gifted to 12 PacificIsland countries from 1987 to 1997 are now approaching their end of service life.
“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, adding: “Australia has a fundamental strategic interest in the security and stability of Pacific island nations.”
Senator 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.
Press Release, June 19, 2014; Image: Wikimedia