The Australian Government has released a Request for Tender (RFT) for a replacement fleet to the Royal Australian Navy Patrol Boats that provide the frontline of Australia’s defences against people smuggling, illegal fishing, the narcotics trade and breaches of Australia’s quarantine regulations. The fifteen 42 metre Fremantle Class Patrol Boats, armed with 40 millimetre guns, currently operated are almost 25 years old and are nearing the end of their working life. The Government’s Defence White Paper provided for a replacement for the Fremantle Patrol Boats.
The contract for the new Patrol Boats will cover both construction and through life support of the vessels. The construction component of the contract will be worth up to $450 million dollars. The first new vessel will begin patrolling our waters in late 2004.
The Patrol Boat force is home ported in Darwin (10 Patrol Boats) and Cairns (5 Patrol Boats). In line with the Government’s commitment to enhance surveillance in our northern waters, four Patrol Boats were recently transferred to Darwin, two from Perth and two from Sydney.
The new vessels will be slightly larger and able to cope with heavier seas. They will continue to provide vital operational training platforms for navy personnel. The navy contributes 1800 Patrol Boat days each year to Coastwatch operations protecting our coastlines. The Government has indicated that it expects the construction to largely take place in Australia. It is expected that a single business entity will take responsibility for not only supplying the Patrol Boats, but also maintaining and supporting them for the duration of their 15-20 year life span.
Furthermore, the $12.4 million upgrade to Darwin Naval Base is now complete and will provide a homeport for the updated fleet. The upgrade included construction of a 146m wharf, extensions to the existing wharf, additional fuel and storage facilities, and hard standing for cyclone protection. The new wharf has been designed to allow for a further extension to 200 metres, enabling it to cater for the larger vessels, which will replace the Fremantle Class Patrol Boats from 2004.