Kiribati is the latest recipient of a new police patrol boat donated by Australia.
Radio Kiribati reports the RKS Teanoai II arrived in Kiribati waters this week after a long journey from Western Australia through Cairns and Solomon Islands.
It replaces its predecessor, also called Teanoai, which was also gifted by Australia, under the original Pacific Patrol Boat Programme between 1987 and 1997.
Australia has progressively been replacing those vessels with 19 larger and more capable Guardian-class Patrol Boats, which are going to 12 Pacific states.
RKS Teanoai II is now off Tarawa where the crew are expected to spend at least two weeks in quarantine, before an official welcome.
Austal Chief Executive Officer Paddy Gregg said the latest delivery of the Pacific Patrol Boat replacement project highlighted the resilience, flexibility and efficiency of the teams collaborating from Austal Australia and the Department of Defence.
“The Teanoai II was originally scheduled for delivery in the middle of 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic was postponed until such time as we could get the Kiribati crew safely into Australia,” Gregg said.
“While the delivery of this particular vessel was postponed, it did not affect, delay or hinder the construction or delivery of subsequent Guardian-class Patrol Boats and we remain on track to deliver all 21 vessels by the end of 2023.
“The Austal Australia and SEA3036-1 Project teams have worked together successfully to maintain productivity and meet the objectives of the Pacific Patrol Boat replacement project, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Faster, with improved seakeeping, better amenities and an enhanced mission capability – including an integrated RHIB stern launch and recovery system – the Guardian-class Patrol Boats provide the Kiribati Police Force with a much improved naval asset to carry out border patrols, regional policing, search and rescue, and many other operations domestically and internationally.
The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) Project was awarded to Austal in May 2016, with an additional contract option awarded in April 2018, taking the program to 21 vessels, valued at more than AUD$335 million (US$245 million).
Twelve Pacific Island nations including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Timor Leste will receive the vessels through to 2023.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/RADIO KIRIBATI/AUSTAL/PACNEWS