Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR October 2014 Contents 42 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter OCT 2014
Hornet refuelling from KC-30A
Armidales are averaging 200 sea days per year per
The problem for some countries has been the cost
of fuel, which is seen as excessive by small island
nations with tiny populations. Australia, the US and
France have all chipped in with fuel subsidies to help
out. This is an effective form of aid, providing the patrol
boats are being used for military, economic and law
enforcement purposes, not just as a VIP craft for the
PNG and Vanuatu’s 1987 deliveries mean they are
operating the three oldest craft and are likely to be the
first replacements. Given that PNG’s third patrol boat
was delivered in 1988, this suggests that all three in
PNG could be replaced as a fleet in the first stage of
the construction program.
AUSTRALIA’S ONGOING SUPPORT
The RAN has always supplied an officer in the form
of a Lieutenant Commander as adviser to each island
country operating Pacific Patrol Boats, as well as
a marine technician to help with maintenance and
logistics. These all give Australia a presence right
throughout the region. Island maritime agencies value
them for their help in developing a more mature
maritime enforcement arm, logistic and maintenance
support, and identifying ongoing training requirements.
Defence has advised APDR that this important
support program will continue.
Australia recognises the strategic importance of
Pacific Islands in an arc to its north. So this new build
program and ongoing training of crews and support of
vessels is not merely well intentioned foreign aid but
seen as enhancing Australia’s security and preventing
regional conflict. Navy and Government commentary
reveals that personal links forged between RAN
personnel and the officers and crews operating these
patrol boats is seen as probably the most valuable
part of the program from Australia’s perspective. The
highly desirable economic benefit to partner countries
improves their stability and raises the living standards
of their populations.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss attended
the 45th Summit of Pacific Islands Forum in Palau
recently. Meeting with the leaders of 14 other Pacific
countries, he said he was pleased the Forum had
adopted some important initiatives to ensure that
regional cooperation in the Pacific is effective, relevant
and resilient in the face of significant challenges.
Leaders also signed a joint declaration on this year’s
Forum theme, ‘The Ocean: Life and Future’.
In addition to reminding participants of the Australian
Government’s new Pacific Patrol Boat Program,
Warren Truss announced two complementary
initiatives directed towards strengthening Pacific
island countries’ maritime security capacity - a
program of contracted aerial ocean surveillance and
the secondment of regional personnel to the Forum
Australia is increasing its support over four years to
the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), bringing
Australia’s total support for Pacific regional fisheries
to $40 million by 2018.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture
Senator Richard Colbeck attended the Tenth Annual
Session of Pacific Fisheries Ministers in Tokelau
mid-year and signed the Agreement on Strengthening
Implementation of the Niue Treaty on Co-operation in
Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement in the
South Pacific Region (NTSA).
The NTSA came into force recently after it was
ratified by Vanuatu and Samoa. This treaty is a
key instrument in reducing illegal, unreported and
unregulated (IUU) fishing in the South Pacific region.
A respected ASPI analyst, Karl Claxton, has
written recently in “The Strategist” that he believes
over one billion dollars in revenue is lost annually
to the combined South Pacific countries because
of IUU fishing.
Senator Colbeck said long-term sustainable
fisheries management is vital as many Pacific island
countries depend on the fisheries industry for their
“The Pacific Island region has an extremely valuable
tuna resource and the funding supplied to the FFA will
help the region continue to develop strong fisheries
management strategies,” Senator Colbeck said.
“Funding provided to the Secretariat of the Pacific
Community (SPC) is aimed at supporting sustainable
fisheries for inland and coastal communities in the
“It’s important to ensure these Pacific island
countries can maximise their returns from fish
resources while safeguarding stocks for future food
By having announced an acquisition price of $594
million for the replacement patrol boat fleet of 23
vessels, i.e. about $25 million each (a similar price
to the larger Armidale Class patrol boats), the
Government must already have a very clear idea of
how it will proceed with this program.
Design and potential construction sites will be in
advanced stages of development leading towards
confirmation, although Defence is revealing little at
this stage. The RFT expected in early 2015 will make
everything a lot clearer about the future progress of
Will the construction program be “too little, too late”
to save at least two of the current naval shipyards?
APDR will be following developments closely,
and their implications for the two most vulnerable
shipbuilders, to keep readers informed. ¢
An interesting piece of speculation is whether or not the occasional
groundings of Pacific Patrol Boats on various island shores and reefs has
caused aluminium-based replacements to be ruled out in favour of steel.
Solomon Islands Police Vessel Lata underway.
2/10/14 7:44 PM
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