The Australian government has celebrated delivery of the 16th Guardian Class patrol boat under the Pacific Maritime Security Program.
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GPB FSS Bethwel Henry was handed over to the Federated States of Micronesia at a ceremony held in HMAS Stirling, Western Australia, on 28 August.
The fifth boat supplied to the FSM was accepted by Vice-President of Micronesia Aren B Palik from Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles.
“It has been a laudable and successful program. Indeed, in my humble view, one of the most successful foreign policy instruments that the Australian government has implemented,” Vice-President Palik said.
FSS Bethwel Henry, alongside sister vessel FSS Tosiwo Nakayama, will continue the humanitarian and disaster relief supply, territorial water patrol, and maritime security and surveillance work of Australian-built Pacific Class patrol boat FSS Palikir, which was decommissioned this year after 33 years of service to Micronesia and Pacific communities.
The Pacific Maritime Security Program builds on the success of the original Pacific Patrol Boat Program, marking 60 years of commitment to and engagement in the Pacific.
“I am proud to see this vessel carry forward our partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia, as we work together in support of a stable, prosperous, and secure region”, Minister Marles said.
“This is going to be a critical boat and a critical asset for the people of the FSM. It will play its part in constabulary duties, in engaging in search and rescue, in dealing with transnational crime.
“But it will be in combating illegal fishing that the FSS Bethwel Henry will make its greatest contribution to the people of the Federated States of Micronesia.
“FSM has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.7 million square kilometres. It is the 14th largest EEZ in the world, and far and away, it is the most important economic asset that the people of the FSM have.
“I know that for every Australian visiting Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk or Yap, or throughout any part of the Federated States of Micronesia, we will be honoured to see the FSS Bethwel Henry which will continue as an enduring symbol of friendship between Australia and the Federated States of Micronesia.”