Australia is stepping up in the Pacific as we continue to take engagement with our regional partners to a new level with the handover of a new Guardian-class Patrol Boat to the Kingdom of Tonga.
The Tongan Royal Navy’s Ngahau Koula was received by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Tupouto'a 'Ulukalala and Captain Sione Ulakai, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff to His Majesty’s Armed Forces, at a ceremony in Western Australia.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, said the replacement of the Pacific Patrol Boats is an important part of the Government’s $2 billion 30-year commitment to the Pacific region under the Pacific Maritime Security Program.
“The Australian Government is delivering 21 new Guardian-class Patrol Boats to 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste, as well as delivering improved maritime surveillance capability to our Pacific partners,” Minister Reynolds said.
Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, representing the Australian Government at the official ceremony said the Guardian-class Patrol Boats make an important contribution to regional security.
“Tonga is one of Australia’s key partners in the Pacific region and we work closely together to address regional maritime security threats,” Minister Hawke said.
“Tonga’s military plays an important and active role in the security of the region.
“The enhanced capabilities of the Ngahau Koula, together with other maritime surveillance and law enforcement operations, contribute to the Pacific community’s efforts in securing the sea.”
Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Melissa Price MP, said the Pacific Maritime Security Program demonstrates the Government’s commitment to delivering more jobs and opportunities in the Australian defence industry.
“The Guardian-class Patrol Boat Project supports around 400 direct and indirect Australian jobs through the supply chain and is part of our Government’s wider commitment to increasing opportunities for small and medium enterprises in the Australian defence industry,” Minister Price said.
The first Guardian-class Patrol Boat was gifted to Papua New Guinea in 2018 and the second to Tuvalu in April this year.