The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has received the first of four Guardian-class patrol boats in a ceremony held on 30 November at the facilities of Australian shipbuilder Austal in Henderson, Western Australia. The “HMPNGS Ted Diro Ted Diro” (with pennant number 401) is the first of 21 Guardian Class Patrol Boat (GCPB) to be gifted to 12 Pacific Island Nations and Timor-Leste under the Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (Sea 3036) programme, which is aimed at enhancing maritime security co-operation across the South Pacific region. The handover comes after Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s (PNGDF) Maritime Element decommissioned its first Pacific-class patrol boat in October after 31 years of service. HMPNGS Ted Diro Ted Diro had been launched by Austal on 29 May at the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson, Australia. Over the past six weeks, we have had the Ted Diro crew from the PNG Navy at Austal training on how to use and maintain the new vessels.
The Sea 3036 programme, which seeks to enhance the security of Australia’s maritime region by augmenting the maritime capabilities of its immediate neighbours, will replace a current fleet of 22 patrol boats gifted to Pacific Island states between 1987 and 1997. The 13 recipient countries will be the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The next vessel will be gifted to Tuvalu in April 2019 and the last will go to Timor-Leste in October 2023, according to the Australian Department of Defence.
The Pacific Patrol Boat contract was awarded to Austal in May 2016 with a contract option in April 2018 taking the program to 21 vessels valued at AU$335 million. The program supports more than 200 direct jobs at Austal and more than a further 200 indirect jobs through the Australian industry involved in the program. Austal has around 1000 employees in Australia directly contributing to delivering a strong domestic and export shipbuilding industry. The 21 Guardian Class vessels are under construction at Austal’s dedicated Pacific Patrol Boat Production Facility at Naval Base, in Western Australia and will be supported by Austal’s service centre located in Cairns, Queensland.
The Guardian Class is the latest evolution of Austal’s proven patrol boat platform that was first introduced some 20 years ago, commencing with the Bay Class Patrol Boat developed for the Australian Customs Service. Since 1998, Austal has delivered 32 patrol boats to the Commonwealth – representing Australia’s entire border patrol capability. Indeed Austal has delivered or has orders for a total of 97 patrol boats for Australia and around the world. The vessel has an overall length of 39.5 m, a beam of 8 m, and can accommodate a crew complement of 23. It is powered by two Caterpillar 3516C engines and can attain a top speed of 20 kt. The steel-hulled boat was built with space and weight considerations for a 30 mm naval gun as a primary weapon, as well as port and starboard mounts for 12.7 mm general-purpose machine guns.