Defence has confirmed a number of defects on the Guardian-class patrol boats gifted to Pacific nations under the Commonwealth’s Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP), including a potential fault in the exhaust system.
Some countries may need to halt use of the boats while issues are resolved. According to the ABC, WA-based shipbuilder Austal has accepted blame for the issues discovered and will pay for their repair.
"Defence has recently advised the Government of an issue affecting the Guardian class patrol boats Australia has delivered to Pacific Island nations through the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP). The issue involves a potential fault in the exhaust system," Defence confirmed in a statement issued this morning.
"Under the PMSP, the Guardian Class Patrol Boats are the sovereign property of individual Pacific Island nations, and each nation will make its own decision on whether they choose to continue to operate their vessels, or pause operations.
"As with any new capability, it is vital that defects detected during service operation are addressed promptly. That is why the PMSP includes through life sustainment and maintenance."
Defence also publicly acknowledged for the first time some of the longer-known issues with the patrol boats.
"Other issues have emerged over the past 16 months and have remediation plans in place. This includes cracking in the coupling between the engine and the gearbox, and ventilation in the sick bays."
It is understood Defence has issued advice to Pacific operators to "minimise risk" if they choose to continue using the boats while the manufacturer looks for longer-term solutions.
"Austal and Defence representatives soon will travel to Pacific Island nations to assess all vessels and work with Pacific island countries on temporary rectification measures ahead of a longer-term solution," Defence confirmed.
The Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP) is a $2.1 billion program which looks to enhance defence and security cooperation between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.
Under the PMSP, Australia is delivering 21 Guardian-class patrol boats to 12 Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste between 2018 and 2023, to replace the existing Pacific-class patrol boats which have been in service since the 1980s.
Most recently, the 15th boat was delivered to the Cook Islands on May 26.