Numerous problems have been identified on Australian-built patrol boats donated to Pacific countries, prompting the Department of Defense to issue advice on how the countries that operate them can “minimize risks.”
Most important points:
- Defense Industry Secretary Pat Conroy says his department is working closely with regional neighbors to address the issues
- He has also targeted the previous government to keep the issues hidden and unresolved
- Defense also for the first time publicly acknowledged other, longer known flaws with the Guardian class fleet
Western Australia-based shipbuilder Austal took the blame and will pay to repair the flaws discovered with its Guardian-class patrol boats, including a possible exhaust system failure.
As of 2018, Australia has delivered 15 of the vessels to Pacific countries under its $2.1 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP) to address challenges such as illegal fishing.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said it had recently notified the government of a “problem” in Guardian-class patrol boats with a possible malfunction of the exhaust system.
The ABC understands that the defect is related to the boat’s stern tube system, a similar problem that arose several years ago with Austal’s Cape-class patrol boats.
The department has also, for the first time, publicly acknowledged other longer-known faults with the Guardian-class fleet, including cracks in the clutch between the engine and gearbox and problems with ventilation in the hospitals.
“Under the PMSP, Guardian Class Patrol Boats are the sovereign property of individual Pacific Island nations, and each nation will make its own decision as to whether they choose to continue operating their ships or suspend operations,” the department said in a statement. declaration. †
“Austal and Defense representatives will soon travel to Pacific countries to assess all ships and work with Pacific countries on temporary rectification measures pending a longer-term solution.”
Defense Secretary Pat Conroy said his department is working closely with regional neighbors to address the issues.
“The safety of our Pacific partners is of the utmost importance, and we are committed to meeting all challenges together to ensure these boats are safe and operational,” said Mr Conroy.
“We understand how important these vessels are to Australia and our partners in the Pacific. The Guardian patrol boats play a vital role in maritime surveillance activities and in detecting and deterring illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”
Mr Conroy, who is also a minister for the Pacific, targeted the previous government because it kept the problems hidden and unresolved.
“This is the latest example of [how] the previous Liberal government was all announcement and no follow-up when it came to defense projects,” he said.
Last year, the ABC revealed that poor-quality aluminum imported from China had delayed the delivery of new $350 million-evolved Cape patrol boats to the Royal Australian Navy.
In 2017, the ABC also disclosed issues with the Austal’s $330 million Cape class fleet affecting the Australian Border Force’s operations.
In recent years, several Pacific countries, including Papua New Guinea, Samoa and the Solomon Islands, have damaged their Australian patrol boats in accidents, such as stranding on reefs.