After a technical flaw was discovered in the fleet of Guardian-class patrol boats handed over to the island nation under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, problems arose in Australia’s efforts to build relations in the Pacific.
The $ 2.1 billion program (US $ 1.45 billion), which is part of the broader Pacific Step-up Initiative, has promised to hand over 22 patrol vessels to the Government of the Pacific Islands.
The vessel is manufactured by the Perth-based shipbuilding company Austal, which also has a major shipbuilding facility in Alabama, which is used to assist in maritime surveillance. So far, 15 boats have been delivered.
Australian Department of Defense clearly Several issues have been discovered in the last 16 months.
In February, a crack was found in the coupling between the engine and the gearbox.
In May, there was a problem with the ventilation system in the hospital room, a problem with the exhaust system, and carbon monoxide was being pumped into a specific compartment.
The Ministry of Defense and Austal will send representatives to Pacific countries to consider immediate short-term solutions before considering long-term solutions.
Guardian-class vessels are under the sovereignty of the individual Pacific governments, and each Pacific government decides whether to continue using the vessel or suspend its operation.
“Defense continues to be committed to partners in the Pacific and Pacific Maritime Assistance Programs,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement.
“Our Pacific partner is a large maritime nation. [Program] It is essential to help our partners exercise their sovereignty in the maritime field. “
Defense Minister Pat Conroy said the Australian Government has promised to tackle all challenges to ensure the safety and operability of boats.
“We understand how important these vessels are to our Australian and Pacific partners. Guardian patrol boats not only play an important role in maritime surveillance activities, but are also illegally reported. Detects and blocks unregulated and unregulated fisheries. “
Speed bump for building Pacific relations
Austal is also working Fix the problem Equipped with an Independence-class littoral combat ship manufactured in Mobile, Alabama. A crack was found in the hull when the ship moved faster than 15 knots or in the sea where the waves were over 8 feet high.
The entire Littoral Combat Ship program suffers from problems and cost spikes due to overly ambitious design goals, from being able to move quickly in coastal areas to engage enemy fleets to becoming anti-ship and anti-submarine. I’ve been.
In fact, Austal’s offshore patrol cutter vessels for the United States Coast Guard are much better. The Coast Guard has just approved a $ 3.3 billion deal to design and build 11 boats.
On the other hand, in the case of Australia, the temporary interruption of the Guardian class could be carefully watched by Beijing, which is willing to raid or piggyback the Pacific countries recognizing the gap in support they receive from democracies.
For example, in November last year, the governments of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea sent security forces to the Solomon Islands to maintain peace after a violent riot, destroying the Chinatown district of Honiara.
A few weeks later, Beijing began sending police and security “trainers” to assist in training the Royal Solomon Islands police on how to deal with the riots.