Austal Limited (Austal) (ASX: ASB) is pleased to announce Austal Australia has delivered the 13th Guardian-class Patrol Boat (GCPB) to the Australian Department of Defence. The vessel, NUSHIP Francis Agwi, was then gifted by the Australian Government to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force at a certificate signing ceremony held at Austal’s shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia. The vessel is the third of four Guardian-class Patrol Boats to be delivered to Papua New Guinea under the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project (SEA3036-1), part of the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program.
Faster, with improved seakeeping, better amenities and an enhanced mission capability – including an integrated RHIB stern launch and recovery system – the Guardian-class Patrol Boats provide the Papua New Guinea Defence Force 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 Project was awarded to Austal Australia 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 ceremony was attended in person by RADM Wendy Malcolm CSM, Head of Maritime Systems, Department of Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG); Air Commodore Fiona Dowse, Senior ADF Officer WA and Captain Gary Lawton, Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling, with Papua New Guinea being represented by the Commanding Officer of NUSHIP Francis Agwi, Lieutenant Elizah Lourie. With border restrictions currently in place that prevented guests from interstate attending, pre-recorded congratulatory messages were presented from both the Minister for Defence, The Hon Peter Dutton MP and His Excellency Mr John Kali, Papua New Guinea High Commissioner to Australia.
The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project supports more than 200 direct jobs at Austal Australia and more than 200 indirect jobs nationally through Australian businesses contracted by Austal. Austal Australia’s expanded service centre in Cairns, incorporating a 1,200 tonne (80 metre LOA) slipway and a 1,120 tonne mobile boat hoist, continues to provide in-service support to the growing Guardian-class Patrol Boat fleet; with more than 100 people now employed in a variety of engineering and sustainment roles in the Far North Queensland city. 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.