A piece of the Pacific in the west

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Mick Wheeler (author), POIS James Whittle (photographer)

Location(s): Henderson Shipyard, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Dechaineux (S76), Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP)

Officers of the Tuvaluan Maritime Police visit HMAS Dechaineux at HMAS Stirling. (photo: POIS James Whittle)
Officers of the Tuvaluan Maritime Police visit HMAS Dechaineux at HMAS Stirling.

With their beautiful, harmonious singing and a new Guardian class Patrol Boat, the maritime surveillance unit of the Tuvalu Police Force brought a distinct Pacific Island feel to Fleet Base West.

The Tuvalu Police Force maritime surveillance unit was on hand to receive NUSHIP Te Mataili II on behalf of the Government of Tuvalu at a recent ceremony.

The ceremony took place at the Henderson Shipyard in Perth, Western Australia and was attended by the Prime Minister of Tuvalu the Right Hon Enele Sosene Sopoaga and Air Commander Australia, Air Vice-Marshal Steven Roberton representing the Chief of Defence Force.

L-R: Air Commander Australia, Air Vice-Marshal Steven Roberton; Tuvalu Police Commissioner Mr Luka Falefou; the Honourable Taukelina Finikaso, Tuvalu Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour; the Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Honourable Anne Ruston; Tuvalu Prime Minster, the Right Honourable Enele Sosene Sopoaga; Mr John Rothwell Chairman Austal; and Ms Karyn Murray, Australian High Commissioner to Tuvalu in front of the new Guardian Class Patrol Boat and members of the Tuvalu Police force.

L-R: Air Commander Australia, Air Vice-Marshal Steven Roberton; Tuvalu Police Commissioner Mr Luka Falefou; the Honourable Taukelina Finikaso, Tuvalu Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour; the Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Honourable Anne Ruston; Tuvalu Prime Minster, the Right Honourable Enele Sosene Sopoaga; Mr John Rothwell Chairman Austal; and Ms Karyn Murray, Australian High Commissioner to Tuvalu in front of the new Guardian Class Patrol Boat and members of the Tuvalu Police force.

The Te Mataili II is the second of 21 Guardian class Patrol Boats to be gifted to 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, the successor to the original Pacific Patrol Boat Program in which Australia gifted vessels to Pacific Island nations between 1987 and 1997.

The Pacific Maritime Security Program demonstrates Australia’s AUD $2 billion commitment over 30 years to the Pacific and will support Pacific island nations to safeguard their maritime sovereignty and resources. 

The larger and more capable Guardian class Patrol Boats can support mixed-gender crewing and will assist nations to combat a wider range of maritime security issues, including transnational crime and illegal fishing.

In addition to the gifting of 21 vessels, the Pacific Maritime Security Program includes contracted region-wide fixed wing aerial surveillance, ongoing sustainment and training support, the continuation of Defence’s maritime adviser network, and infrastructure upgrades to support the safe and secure berthing of the vessels.

Since the ceremony Te Mataili II has been alongside at Fleet Base West and has been undergoing sea readiness evaluations prior to taking the voyage back to Tuvalu.

The crew has had the opportunity to make use of the facilities available at Fleet Base West and have been a feature with their spirited singing during Easter services.

They have also visited the submarine HMAS Dechaineux, which as commented by Inspector Seleganiu Fusi, Commanding Officer, NUSHIP Te Mataili II is a rare event for a Tuvaluan.

“The visit to HMAS Dechaineux has been a great opportunity to broaden our knowledge base; I can guarantee there aren’t many Tuvaluans who have had the opportunity to see inside a working submarine.

“It is also a great example of the hospitality that has been afforded to us, particularly by the Royal Australian Navy.

“The Royal Australian Navy’s Sea Training Unit Defence Cooperation Program worked closely with us to support our preparations to receive and operate the new Guardian class Patrol boat,” Inspector Fusi said.