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Protecting the Seas: Increasing maritime security and sovereignty, Papua New Guinea welcomes its fourth Patrol Boat of the Guardian class.

Papua New Guinea has taken ownership of its fourth Guardian-class Patrol Boat at a handover ceremony at HMAS Stirling, south of Perth, Western Australia. Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, the Hon Win Bakri Daki MP, accepted the patrol boat, HMPNGS Gilbert Toropo, on behalf of the Government of Papua New Guinea. The patrol boat, designed and built by Austal right here in Western Australia, will contribute to Papua New Guinea’s ability to protect its territorial waters and tackle shared maritime security challenges such as illegal and unregulated fishing. HMPNGS Gilbert Toropo joins Papua New Guinea’s other vessels Ted Diro, Rochus Lokinap and Francis Agwi as the 17th Guardian-class Patrol Boat delivered under the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. The program is a 30-year commitment by the Australian Government to ensure uninterrupted engagement with Australiar Pacific partners in support of a stable, prosperous and secure region.

Deputy Prime Minister, The Hon Richard Marles MP said: “The Guardian-class Patrol Boat program is one of the most significant programs in support of our Pacific partners.Papua New Guinea and Australia are close friends with a long history of defence cooperation and I am are pleased to see them receive their fourth Patrol Boat today.”

Minister for Defence Industry and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Pat Conroy MP said: Australia has now proudly provided four Guardian Class Patrol Boats to Papua New Guinea, as part of our longstanding commitment to supporting our Pacific partners through the Pacific Maritime Security Program. “The construction and delivery of these Guardian-class Patrol Boats by Australia’s world class defence industry offers increased capability to our Pacific partners.”

Minister for Defence Personnel, The Hon Matt Keogh MP said: “Australia and Papua New Guinea are neighbours and close friends, we have a shared history, and are proud of the work our personnel have undertaken together, serving side by side for decades. I am proud to deliver HMPNGS Gilbert Toropo to Minister Daki today. The Guardian Class Patrol Boats are critical assets that support Papua New Guinea’s maritime security operations, help to combat illegal fishing and support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, contributing to the peace and prosperity of our region. Working together under the Pacific Maritime Security Program means we are well positioned to protect our collective maritime resources now, and into the future.”

The Guardian-class patrol boats are a class of small patrol vessels designed and built in Australia and provided to small South Pacific Ocean countries as part of the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. The class is designed to be updated replacements for the Pacific Forum-class patrol boats provided to its allies from 1987 to 1997. Australia provided twenty-two Pacific Forum vessels to twelve nations. They were designed to use commercial off the shelf components, to make them easier to maintain for the small nations that would operate them.

Australia stood ready to help with training and maintenance, during the duration of the program, because Australia’s external security issues were eased if it could count on its sovereign neighbours having resources to police their own external security. Austal was commissioned to build 19 Guardian-class boats in 2016. Austal’s contract allows it to market the design to additional customers. Subsequently, an additional three vessels were ordered. Two for Timor-Leste, and one new replacement vessel for the Samoan Nafanua II, which was damaged beyond repair on 5 August 2021. The last vessels are scheduled for delivery in late 2023.

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