Vanuatu patrol boat to Australia for repairs

Published on SGT Dave Morley (author)

Location(s): Moso Island, Vanuatu

VANUATU’s PPB RVS Tukoro became a victim of Tropical Cyclone Pam when it became grounded on March 13. (photo: Unknown)
VANUATU’s PPB RVS Tukoro became a victim of Tropical Cyclone Pam when it became grounded on March 13.

Vanuatu's Pacific patrol boat RVS Tukoro became a victim of Tropical Cyclone Pam when it became grounded on 13 March 2015.

Australian Navy Maritime Surveillance Adviser, Lieutenant Commander Bobby Lewis said the boat was seeking shelter around Vanuatu's main island of Efate during the cyclone.

"Cyclone Pam was one of the biggest ever cyclones in the southern hemisphere with winds of up to 320km/h," he said.

"The boat was grounded on Moso Island, which led to its inoperability."

According to Lieutenant Commander Lewis, Tukoro was left sitting dead flat on the beach and suffered damage to her propeller shafts and rudders and some damage to the hull, although she wasn't holed.

"The boat went through an extensive recovery program, which included dredging out part of the reef, defuelling about 30,000 litres of fuel and removing all the weight we could," he said.

"We also did extensive environmental impact studies into what the reef was like beforehand and then we recovered the vessel using one of the local tugs to pull her off the beach and back into open water.

"She floated with no worries at all and what followed then was a substantial program to rebuild the reef, which took almost as long as the recovery itself."

The recovery occurred on 29 April.

VANUATU’s PPB RVS Tukoro became a victim of Tropical Cyclone Pam when it became grounded on March 13.

VANUATU’s PPB RVS Tukoro became a victim of Tropical Cyclone Pam when it became grounded on March 13.



"Then we went through a process of evaluating the ship in terms of a material and condition assessment and a damage assessment," Lieutenant Commander Lewis said.

"We are now in the process of tendering for contractors and towing providers to make sure the vessel is taken to the right place and repaired by the right people.

"The Australian Government’s Defence Cooperation Program has committed to funding this and the boat will be coming back to Australia to be repaired.”

Lieutenant Commander Lewis said the program and particularly the Pacific Patrol Boat Program in Vanuatu had been running well.

"The grounding of the boat has obviously been a setback, but one which we can recover from," he said.

"Tukoro did 80 days at sea last year and another 20 days this year, which for the Pacific is quite a high statistic, and they've been quite operationally effective and have been working multi-laterally with other countries as well.

"While Tukoro is out of action we’ve been using other regional partners to assist, so RSIPV Auki from Solomon Islands conducted a patrol for us after the cyclone with Vanuatu Police members on board.”

According to Lieutenant Commander Lewis, The Defence Cooperation Program also funded some maritime police and transnational crime unit personnel from Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to fly to Noumea and join Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Wellington.

"Wellington transited through the Vanuatu and Solomon Islands Exclusive Economic Zones to conduct maritime security patrols, which were quite successful," he said.