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 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 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.
Austal Limited Chief Executive Officer Paddy Gregg said the new vessel was the fifth Guardian-class Patrol Boat delivered by Austal Australia in 2021 and maintains a successful track record of on-time and on-budget deliveries for the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project.
“The Austal Australia PPB-R team, CASG’s SEA3036 Project Team and our trusted supply chain partners are to be congratulated on the delivery of the fifth Guardian-class Patrol Boat this year – and maintaining an outstanding track record of deliveries throughout the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project,” Mr Gregg said.
“Indeed, the Project teams’ successful collaboration has been formally acknowledged at the recent Essington Lewis Awards, for excellence in defence project management. The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project was announced as a finalist for the Major Acquisition Project Award for 2021, which is a great recognition of the fantastic effort by stakeholders from Defence, Austal and across the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.
“As we farewell this latest Guardian-class Patrol Boat, we congratulate the Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Major General Gilbert Toropo, Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Maritime Element, Captain Max Aleale; and wish ‘fair winds and following seas’ to the Commanding Officer of NUSHIP Francis Agwi, Lieutenant Elizah Lourie and his crew.”
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 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.