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Fiji welcomes second Guardian Class patrol boat from Australia

Palau’s new Guardian Class patrol boat PSS President HI Remeliik II sails from its home port to commence maritime patrols as part of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s Operation Rai Balang in 2022. Photo: LSIS Nadav Harel

The Australian government has transferred a second Guardian Class patrol boat, the RFNS Puamau, to Fiji at an official handover ceremony in Western Australia.

The Australian government has transferred a second Guardian Class patrol boat, the RFNS Puamau, to Fiji at an official handover ceremony in Western Australia.

The Prime Minister of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, received the vessel on behalf of the government of Fiji during the ceremony at Royal Australian Navy base HMAS Stirling.

RFNS Puamau is the second vessel delivered to Fiji and the 19th vessel delivered under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, under Australia’s 30-year commitment of uninterrupted engagement with Pacific partners in support of a stable, prosperous, and secure region.

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“Australia is proud to be Fiji’s security partner of choice. The delivery of the second Guardian Class patrol boat today is a tangible demonstration of our Vuvale Partnership,” said Minister for Defence Industry and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy.

“By enhancing Fiji’s maritime security capabilities, we are more effective in tackling our shared regional challenges together.”

Both countries have announced their intention to act as “vuvale”, natural partners working together to develop joint responses to emerging regional needs and priorities.

Late last year, the Australian federal government agreed to sell 14 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles to Fiji as part of the elevated Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership agreement.

Minister Conroy and Prime Minister Rabuka were both able to see Australian-made Bushmasters in action and attend Gallipoli Barracks in Queensland during October 2023.

Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles can deploy up to 10 battle-ready troops, are blast resistant, fully air-conditioned, protected against small arms fire, and have an armoured V-shaped hull to protect its passengers from landmines and other explosive devices. They have previously been used in international conflicts and are currently deployed with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Each vehicle is usually armed with 5.56 millimetre and 7.62-millimetre machine guns.

The renewed and elevated Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership was signed by prime ministers Rabuka and Anthony Albanese in Canberra, to increase focus on priorities such as climate change action, trade and economic links, and First Nations’ culture.

“Australia and Fiji are natural friends and close security partners,” Minister Conroy said last year.

“We are proud to continue to support Fiji’s global peacekeeping contributions by providing additional Bushmasters to Fiji.

“Vuvale is Fijian for family. This agreement, announced on Wednesday, is a tangible demonstration of our renewed and elevated vuvale partnership, which is based on trust and listening closely to each other.”

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