Australia’s global shipbuilding contractor, Austal, has announced the opening of a new maintenance facility in Trinidad and Tobago to maintain the South American island’s Cape-class patrol vessels.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, officially opened the new facility, accompanied by the Permanent Secretary, Nataki Atiba-Dilchan; Chief of Defence Staff, Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel; Acting Commanding Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, Commander Akhenaton Isaac; Acting High Commissioner of Australia to Trinidad and Tobago, Melissa Mitchell, and Austal Australia’s Chief Operating Officer, Ian McMillan.

The facility, constructed and operated by Austal under an In-Service Support agreement signed by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in April 2022, enhances the local team’s capability to provide ongoing support to the Coast Guard’s Cape-class patrol vessels, constructed by Austal in Australia and delivered in 2021.

Austal designed the Cape-class fleet to prevent unauthorised maritime access, piracy, maritime terrorism, marine pollution, illegal foreign fishing, unlawful import or export, and illegal activity in protected areas.

The patrol boats incorporate a mono-hull design and are equipped with high degree surveillance technology. It has an overall length of 57.8 metres (m), a beam of 10.3m and a draft of 3m. Each ship can carry a crew of 18. Accommodation facilities are provided for government officials and customs, as well as border protection officers.

Originally designed for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 2011, the Commonwealth has since sought to build its Arafura-class replacement, which has experienced ‘concerning’ delays, or develop an Evolved Cape-class fleet.

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In a press release at the time of the ceremonial opening, the Government stated: “The construction of the facility will bolster the operational capacity of the [nation’s coast guard], ensuring the timely maintenance of the Coast Guard capital assets, to further strengthen the border security of the country.”

However, this statement may be taken with a pinch of salt considering the delays Australia’s naval industrial base have experienced with the Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessels, which the Australian Government recently listed as a “project of concern.”