CANBERRA, Australia, June 20 (UPI) -- Australia is planning a new project to procure patrol boats for regional countries as part of security cooperation efforts.
The project is called the Pacific Patrol Boat Program and is a follow-on to a 1980s-1990s procurement. It was announced this week by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister David Johnston.
"The Pacific Patrol Boat Program is an important pillar of the Australian government's commitment to working with our regional partners to enable cohesive security cooperation on maritime surveillance, including in fisheries protection and transnational crime," Bishop said.
"Defense (Dept.) will replace the current fleet of patrol boats for all current PPB members with the addition of a new member, Timor-Leste (East Timor), which has been invited to join the program, evidence of Australia's growing defense cooperation program with that country," Johnston said in the announcement.
"The current fleet of 22 patrol boats gifted to 12 Pacific Island countries from 1987 to 1997 are now approaching their end of service life.
"This new program will involve the construction of more than 20 steel, all-purpose patrol vessels that will considerably enhance the maritime security of our Pacific and regional partners," he said.
Australia began the PPB program following a U.N. convention in 1982 that established 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones for countries with ocean coastlines. The boats Australia gifted to countries were built by Australian Shipbuilding Industries.
Receiving them were Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, and the Cook Islands.
The Australian ministers said it will soon put out a tender for the new boats. Provisions for training and sustainment would be part of any contract issued.
The cost of the new procurement project is expected to be about $188 billion.