Patrol boats the guardians of regional security and stability

Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), ABCIS Blake Donovan (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Maryborough (P95), Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP)

Guardian Class Patrol Boat, Royal Solomon Islands Police Vessel Gizo, leads Royal Australian Navy Armidale Class Patrol Boat, HMAS Maryborough. (photo: ABCIS Blake Donovan)
Guardian Class Patrol Boat, Royal Solomon Islands Police Vessel Gizo, leads Royal Australian Navy Armidale Class Patrol Boat, HMAS Maryborough.

Royal Australian Navy Patrol Boat HMAS Maryborough has joined Royal Solomon Islands Police Vessel Gizo for her maiden voyage home.

The Australian Government handed over Gizo, a Guardian Class Patrol Boat, to the Solomon Islands during a ceremony held in Henderson, Western Australia in November.

Gizo then sailed to Darwin where Maryborough joined her for the final leg to Honiara.

Commanding Officer Maryborough, Commander Chris Unwin, said the voyage demonstrated the support and friendship between the Pacific nations.

“These engagements are important. They support efforts to maintain security and stability in the region,” he said.

“RSIPV Gizo will greatly assist the Solomon Islands Police Force to protect their country’s natural resources as the new boat is a significant enhancement in capability over their previous class of vessel.”

Gizo is the fifth of 21 Guardian Class Patrol Boats gifted to 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste under the $2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program.

Along the way, Maryborough and Gizo have conducted manoeuvring and emergency training.

Crew members also swapped vessels for short periods.

Cross-decking, as it is known in naval jargon, is practised by navies all over the world and is designed to improve the personal and professional development of those fortunate enough to be selected. It is also a sign of diplomacy and trust between participating vessels.

Commander Unwin said the crew of Gizo had proven to be professional and capable mariners.

"International engagements such as this are always enjoyable," he said.

"Despite the fact that I have been in the Navy for a significant period of time, there are always new places to visit, new friends to meet and new cultures to learn about.

"Many on board Maryborough have never been to the Solomon Islands before and are looking forward to the experience."

Commander Unwin said the patrol boat community was at the front line of Navy's efforts to deepen interoperability and promote security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Maryborough has been on duty over the Christmas period, undertaking patrols on Operation RESOLUTE.

The Guardian Class Pacific Patrol Boat is 39.5 metres long, and has a complement of 23 crew members. The vessel has a range of 3000 nautical miles at minimal speed, completing the voyage from Darwin to Honiara without refuelling.

The boats are designed to conduct maritime surveillance and enforcement operations, including illegal fishing, search and rescue, and other border operations.