The Minister for Defence, John Moore, today welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement that the Pacific Patrol Boat (PPB) Project will be extended for a further 25 years.
"Mr Howard's announcement is a significant boost to Pacific countries which need help to protect their fisheries," Mr Moore said. "This assistance from the Government and people of Australia will help those nations build a more prosperous future.
"The PPB Project is a great example of the very important work Defence does in the region. It is the most successful Defence Cooperation projects we have undertaken and is a powerful symbol of Australia's strategic partnership with the South Pacific region.
"The patrol boats provide Pacific Island countries with a visible and effective maritime surveillance capability, as well as a search-and-rescue capability. They are considered by the nations that have them to be a very valuable asset," said Mr Moore.
With the first Pacific Patrol Boat due to reach the end of its planned 15 year life in 2002, Australia has offered to extend the life of each of the 22 Pacific Patrol Boats so that they are able to operate for a total of 30 years. This life extension program will extend Australia's involvement in the project out to 2027 at an estimated cost of $350 million. The life extension program will involve a major capital upgrade to each boat, and Australia will continue to provide training, advisory and maintenance support over the period of the life extension program. Extending Australia's involvement in the Pacific Patrol Boat project for another quarter-century represents Australia's most significant defence commitment to the South Pacific and illustrates Australia's strong commitment to meeting the security challenges of the region.