Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has presided over a handover ceremony at Austal headquarters in Henderson, Western Australia, delivering a Guardian Class patrol boat to the Kingdom of Tonga.
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For the second time this year, the Kingdom of Tonga has received a Austal-build Guardian Class patrol boat from the Australian government, delivered during a handover ceremony at Austal’s headquarters in Henderson, Western Australia, on Friday, 30 October.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price presided over the ceremony, and was joined by head of maritime systems, Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm.
Tonga was represented by the high commissioner to Australia HRH Princess Angelika Latufuipeka Tuku’aho, and His Majesty’s Armed Forces’ Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Siu Fifita.
The patrol vessel, VOEA Ngahau Siliva, joins Nghahau Koula, which was delivered to Tonga by the Commonwealth in June.
The handover forms part of the federal government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP), aimed at enhancing practical maritime security co-operation across the south Pacific.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the program has enhanced maritime capability and strengthen defence co-operation between the nations.
“Australia and Tonga have long worked together in pursuit of our shared goals for sovereignty, security and prosperity in the Pacific,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Tonga’s second Guardian Class patrol boat is a considerable step up in Tonga’s maritime capability, and I have no doubt the vessel will admirably serve Tonga and the Pacific region in meeting their maritime security goals."
Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Alex Hawke added that the vessels were an important part of Australia’s collaboration with the Pacific in the COVID-19 environment.
“Guardian Class patrol boats are playing a key role in supporting the Pacific response to complex COVID-19 related economic and security challenges,” Minister Hawke said.
“The VOEA Ngahau Siliva will protect Tonga’s maritime resources, and reduce the costs of illegal activities on both the economy and society.”
Minister Price said she was pleased to attend the ceremony, adding that it demonstrated the key role that Australia’s defence industry and Austal Ships are playing in improving maritime capability in the region.
“Australia is proud to play a part in the next generation of Pacific maritime capability through the delivery of Australian-built vessels,” Minister Price said.
“Guardian Class patrol boats are another great success story for Australia’s growing defence industry and support around 400 direct and indirect Australian jobs.”
This latest handover follows the delivery of Guardian Class patrol boat PSS President H.I. Remeliik II to the Republic of Palau in September, and the handover of the first of two vessels, RFNS Savenaca, to Fiji in March.
The Guardian Class patrol boats are designed to enable nations across the Asia-Pacific region to respond to fisheries protection, trans-national crime, and search and rescue operations.
The Commonwealth government is expected to handover 21 vessels to 12 Pacific island nations and Timor Leste up until 2023.
[Related: Palau to acquire Guardian Class patrol boat]