Australia to build 21 patrol boats for its neighbors

Australian Minister of Defence Kevin Andrew Australian Minister of Defence Kevin Andrew

MARCH 6, 2015 — Australia's Minister of Defence, Kevin Andrews, today, issued a statement announcing the Request for Tender (RFT) for up to 21 replacement – Australian-made – Pacific Patrol Boats under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, Project SEA3036 Phase 1.
Under that program, Australia provides patrol boats to Pacific island countries to enable them take an active part in securing their own extensive Exclusive Economic Zones

The project announced today is seen as a lifeline for Australian shipbuilding. According to the minister, it represents "a significant investment in Australian defense industry," with the Australian-made patrol boats worth Australian $594 million (about US$ 462 million) with through life sustainment and personnel costs adding an estimated at A$1.38 billion (about US$ 1.07 billion over 30 years.

Senator Andrews' predecessor as Minister of Defence was Senator David Johnson, who didn't last long in the job after his comment last November that he wouldn't trust Government owned shipbuilder ASC (formerly Australian Submarine Corporation) "to build a canoe."

Today, Senator Andrews was being nice to shipbuilders. He noted that "in December last year the Government announced a plan that will allow for a sustainable naval shipbuilding industry that supports shipbuilding jobs in Australia," and added, "we recognize the significant value to our nation of having a skilled naval shipbuilding force as part of our continued commitment to maritime security in the Pacific region."

The minister called the current Pacific Patrol Boat Program the centerpiece of the Australian Government's engagement in the South Pacific. He said the replacement vessels will be larger and more capable than the current fleet. They will also have greater seakeeping ability, habitability and endurance, and will be updated for the contemporary operating environment.

Replacement patrol boats have been offered to all current participating states including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, as well as new member Timor-Leste.

The vessels will continue to be complemented by a comprehensive program of training, maintenance and operational support for our regional partners.

The RFT will be an open tender for both the procurement and sustainment of the replacement vessels, along with sustainment of the current Pacific Patrol Boats until their end of life, as well as a new Tongan Landing Craft Medium.

Under the essential requirements of the RFT, the replacement vessels will be built in Australia, and be of steel hull construction.

Following the tender process, further decisions about this project are likely to be made nearing the end of 2015.

At a press conference announcing the program, Rear Admiral Mark Purcell, the head of Maritime Systems Division at Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation, noted that the key requirements for these vessels are to be designed and constructed to commercial standards; simple and cost-effective to own, operate and maintain; weapon systems will not be fitted, but allowance made to military standards; a speed of greater than 20 knots in top of Sea State Four; a range of 2,500 nautical miles at 12 knots with 20% burnable fuel remaining; a mission duration of 20 days; a length up to 40 m; capable of operating to the top of Sea State Four; accommodation for 19 crew with 23 berths; and an embarked Sea boat will be capable of speed of greater than 20 knots, operating at the top of Sea State Four, and with a crew of 6 or 8 desirable.

Read the transcript of the press conference HERE

Read the RFT HERE

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