On 6 March the Australian government gifted a second GUARDIAN-class patrol boat to the Republic of Fiji in a ceremony attended by Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama; Australian Minister for Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds; Australian Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price; and Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Gen Angus Campbell.
The vessel, RFNS SAVENACA, was gifted under the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) programme, which was awarded to Austal in May 2016, with an additional contract option awarded in April 2018, taking the programme to 21 vessels, valued at more than A$335 million (€190 million). Twelve Pacific Island nations: Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu; as well as Timor Leste, will receive the vessels through to 2023.
Faster, with improved seakeeping, better amenities and an enhanced mission capability – including an integrated stern launch and recovery system – the GUARDIAN-class vessels provide the Fiji Navy with a much improved naval asset to carry out border patrols, regional policing, search and rescue and many other operations, both domestically and internationally.
Austal Chief Executive, David Singleton, said the first GUARDIAN-class delivery for 2020 highlighted the Australian shipyard’s continuing gains in productivity and efficiency, such that it is now delivering a new naval vessel every three months. “Now in the third year of production, the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project has really hit its stride, with this sixth GUARDIAN-class Patrol Boat benefiting from a number of innovative production processes that have reduced production time, while maintaining quality […] Our warmest congratulations go to Prime Minister Bainimarama, the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto and the Chief of Navy, Captain Humphrey Tawake on the handover of this impressive new ship, the RFNS SAVENACA,” he stated at the ceremony. PPB-R supports more than 200 direct jobs at Austal Australia and more than 200 indirect jobs nationally, through approximately 450 Australian businesses contracted.
“Austal Australia’s delivery of the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project is achieving 68.5% Australian industry content, which is outstanding for a project of this size and complexity. Austal and our valued suppliers, contractors and business partners, are adding real value to Australian industry and contributing to genuine sovereign shipbuilding capability,” Singleton added.
Austal’s service centre in Cairns is providing in-service support to the growing GUARDIAN-class fleet, with more than 40 people now employed there in a variety of engineering and sustainment roles.
The 39.5m steel monohull patrol boat - designed, constructed and sustained by Austal Australia - is based on a proven design platform that has included the 38m BAY-class, 56m ARMIDALE-class and 58m CAPE-class patrol boats that are in service with the Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy.