Australia has handed over the NUSHIP Francis Agwi Guardian-class patrol boat (GCPB) to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force at a ceremony in Henderson, Western Australia (WA).

This is the 13th GCPB delivered by Austal Australia to the Australian Department of Defence (DoD).

NUSHIP Francis Agwi has been delivered as part of the DoD’s Pacific Maritime Security Programme.

According to Austal, the vessel is the third of four GCPBs being delivered to Papua New Guinea under the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project (SEA3036-1).

The GCPBs will enable the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to undertake border patrols, regional policing, and search and rescue operations.

Austal CEO Paddy Gregg said that the new vessel is the fifth GCPB delivered by Austal Australia this year.

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In March 2015, the Australian Government issued a tender request for replacement patrol vessels.

In May 2016, the firm won the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPBR) project, subsequently securing an additional contract option in April 2018.

Austal is responsible for the delivery of 21 vessels valued at around $251m (A$335m).

The programme aims to deliver 21 Guardian-class patrol boats to equip 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor Leste with new maritime patrol capability.

The 12 Pacific Island nations include Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Vanuatu, Timor Leste, Samoa and Tuvalu.

Gregg said: “The Austal Australia PPB-R team, CASG’s SEA3036 Project Team and our trusted supply chain partners are to be congratulated on the delivery of the fifth Guardian-class Patrol Boat this year, and maintaining an outstanding track record of deliveries throughout the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project.”

“Indeed, the Project teams’ successful collaboration has been formally acknowledged at the recent Essington Lewis Awards, for excellence in defence project management.”

“The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project was announced as a finalist for the Major Acquisition Project Award for 2021, which is a great recognition of the fantastic effort by stakeholders from Defence, Austal and across the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

Each vessel of the GCPB fleet will have an overall length of 39.5m, an overall beam of 8m, and a cargo deck area of 16m². It can accommodate up to 23 personnel.

In July this year, Australia handed over the RVS Takuare GCPB to the Republic of Vanuatu.