The Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program has reached a new milestone as the Kingdom of Tonga received their second Australian-built Guardian-class Patrol Boat at a ceremony in Henderson, Western Australia. Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the handover represented a focus on the enhanced maritime capability in the defence cooperation between two nations. The VOEA Ngahau Siliva is the second Guardian-class Patrol Boat for Tonga and the eighth for the Pacific. The High Commissioner to Australia HRH Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho and His Majesty’s Armed Forces’ Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Siu Fifita accepted the VOEA Ngahau Siliva on behalf of Tonga.
The Tongan crew, who have diligently observed all necessary COVID-19 safe protocols and procedures while completing a comprehensive training program that Austal provides at its Henderson shipyard in Western Australia, have now taken delivery of the vessel and will depart for Tonga, following further training and familiarisation with the Royal Australian Navy at HMAS Stirling, Garden Island. The VOEA Ngahau Siliva is replacing VOEA Neiafu (P201), a Pacific-class Patrol Boat that has been in service in Tonga since 1989. The Guardian-class Patrol Boats provide the Tongan Navy with a much improved naval asset to carry out border patrols, regional policing, search and rescue and many other operations domestically and internationally.
The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) Project was awarded to Austal in May 2016, with an additional contract option awarded in April 2018 taking the program to 21 vessels valued at more than A$335 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.
The 39.5 metre steel monohull patrol boat – designed, constructed and sustained by Austal Australia – is based on a proven design platform that has included the 38 metre Bay-class, 56 metre Armidale-class and 58 metre Cape-class patrol boats that are in service with the Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy. Austal will deliver the vessels without armament, but they were designed to be capable of mounting an autocannon of up to 30 millimetres (1.2 in) 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). One of the main deck staterooms, a stateroom with two bunks, is equipped with separate ventilation.