The first of 21 Guardian Class Pacific Patrol Boats to be designed and built by Austal has been launched.
The launch of the first vessel comes just two years after the contract was awarded to the Australian shipbuilder. The first vessel is now scheduled for delivery to Papua New Guinea in late October 2018.
The launch of the first Pacific Patrol Boat is a milestone for Austal, with the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) program marking the company's first steel ship program.
"Austal is proud to be delivering the PPB-R program for the Commonwealth. This is the first steel ship program we have managed and we are doing so on time and on budget," Austal chief executive David Singleton said.
"It is a testament to the skills, experience and management of the Austal PPB-R team that the first vessel has met its project milestones for design and build, on schedule. The overall construction program is well underway, with vessels two and three in build and the fourth vessel commencing construction in June."
Singleton said the program will support 200 direct jobs at Austal and 200 indirect jobs in the broader Australian industry in a program that now extends out to late 2023. This employment is in addition to several hundred jobs at Austal created by a number of large commercial export contracts currently under construction and planned for construction at the Henderson shipyard.
"We are already working on export opportunities leveraging off the Pacific Patrol Boats, which will assist Australia to sustain its sovereign naval shipbuilding industry. Austal has already delivered over 40 patrol boats to international customers around the world," Singleton said.
The Pacific Patrol Boat contract was awarded to Austal in May 2016, worth $305 million for the original 19 vessels and associated in service support, with a further contract awarded in April 2018 for two additional vessels for $29.7 million.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne congratulated Austal on the launch of the first Guardian Class Pacific Patrol Boat, which also marked the launch of the first vessel of the government's $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan.
"The project, which is worth around $335 million, is on time and on budget," Minister Pyne said.
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"This particular boat will be gifted to Papua New Guinea in late October 2018, and is the first of 21 boats to be gifted to 12 Pacific Island countries and East Timor as part of the Pacific Maritime Security Program."
The 39.5-metre steel-hulled boats will be used to conduct maritime surveillance and enforcement operations, such as combating illegal fishing.
Construction of the second and third boats is underway, with new boats scheduled to be delivered at approximately three-month intervals from late 2018 until 2023.