The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has commissioned the first Guardian-class patrol boat during a ceremony held at Port Moresby.

HMPNGS Ted Diro represents the first of 21 Guardian-class patrol boats that the Australian Government agreed to grant to 12 Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste under the Pacific Maritime Security Program.

Over a 30-year period, Australia will contribute A$2bn ($1.42bn) to the Pacific region to enhance maritime security in cooperation with Pacific island nations.

The Pacific Maritime Security Program comprises three components, including patrol boat replacement, integrated regional aerial surveillance, and efforts to bolster regional coordination.

It was introduced as a replacement to the original Pacific Patrol Boat Program under which Pacific Island nations were gifted vessels by the Australian Government between 1987 and 1997.

The new Guardian-class vessels are designed to support mixed-gender crewing and can be deployed to tackle a range of maritime security issues in the Pacific, including transnational crime and illegal fishing.

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"The Royal Australian Navy and Papua New Guinea Defence Force Maritime Element have a strong and enduring history of maritime security cooperation."

Under the programme, Australia will also offer assistance in the form of contracted region-wide fixed-wing aerial surveillance, ongoing sustainment and training support.

In addition, the programme includes the continuation of defence’s maritime adviser network and delivering infrastructure upgrades to support the safe and secure berthing of the vessels.

Australian Defence Force chief general Angus Campbell said: “The Royal Australian Navy and Papua New Guinea Defence Force Maritime Element have a strong and enduring history of maritime security cooperation, which will continue to deepen through the Lombrum Joint Initiative.”

The first Guardian-class patrol boat is named in honour of the first Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force post-independence.

Furthermore, wharf and shore-based infrastructure improvement works have commenced at the Lombrum Naval Base in Manus Province to support Papua New Guinea’s four patrol boats.

Campbell added: “The Lombrum Joint Initiative will enhance PNG’s ability to protect its sovereign territory and manage its borders through a broad program of mentoring, tailored training, infrastructure development, and shared facilities at the Papua New Guinea Defence Force base.”