Australia is stepping up in the Pacific and continuing to deepen engagement with regional partners during COVID-19 with the handover of a new Guardian-class Patrol Boat to the Republic of Palau. Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the new Guardian-class Patrol Boat demonstrates Australia’s enduring partnership with Palau and Australian shared commitment to regional maritime security. The vessel, PSS President HI Remeliik II, was received by Palauan Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Emerson Nobuo at a COVID-safe ceremony in Henderson, Western Australia, celebrating the latest milestone under the Pacific Maritime Security Program.
“Australia and Palau have worked closely to prepare for the delivery of the new vessel, which represents a significant boost to Palau’s maritime capability and to the region’s maritime security. Our ability to unite to advance shared goals in this challenging COVID-19 environment is a testament to the strength of our partnership. The crew’s commitment to the training program with our Navy personnel and our industry partners at Austal has been exceptional, and we are proud to host them here in Australia,” Minister Reynolds said.
“The Palau vessel is the seventh Guardian-class Patrol Boat delivered to our Pacific partners under the Pacific Maritime Security Program. This Program, which is the successor to the Pacific Patrol Boat Program, proudly continues a 60-year commitment to the Pacific and to regional maritime security,” Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Alex Hawke said.
Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price said she was pleased to represent the Australian Government at today’s handover to see how the Pacific Maritime Security Program also supported Australia’s defence industry. “Construction of the patrol boats in Perth demonstrates that manufacturing is alive and well in Australia, with work at Austal Australia supporting some 400 direct and indirect local jobs. Defence industry projects like this one are a great jobs success story and provides a reminder of the importance of the role that such companies play in supporting both our economy and defence capability,” Minister Price said.
The Guardian-class patrol boats are a class of small patrol vessels designed and built in Australia for small Pacific Ocean countries. The class is designed to be updated replacements for the Pacific Forum-class patrol boats provided to its allies from 1987 to 1997. Australia provided 22 Pacific Forum vessels to 20 nations. They were designed to use commercial off the shelf components, to make them easier to maintain for the small nations that would operate them. Australia stood ready to help with training and maintenance, during the duration of the program, because Australia’s external security issues were eased if it could count on its sovereign neighbours having resources to police their own external security.
The Australian government called for submission in March 2015. Austal was chosen as the contractor in April 2016.The vessels will be 39.5 metres (129 ft 7 in) long, steel monohull design, capable of traveling 3,000 nautical miles at 12 knots, with a maximum speed of 20 knots. They are designed to berth a complement of 23 crew members. They will have a stern launching ramp for a pursuit boat. Austal will deliver the vessels without armament, but they were designed to be capable of mounting an autocannon of up to 30 millimetres on their foredeck, and a heavy machine gun on either side of their bridge. The vessel’s twin diesel engines can provide 4,000 kilowatts (5,400 shp).