Senior officers and officials of Timor-Leste’s military - Falantil Forcas Defesa de Timor Lorosae (F-FDTL) - and Defence Department previewed their future patrol boat during a recent visit to the Republic of Tuvalu’s new Guardian Class Patrol Boat Te Mataili II in Cairns.
Te Mataili II is the second Guardian Class Patrol Boat built by Western Australian shipbuilder Austal under a contract that will see 23 ships built for Timor-Leste and 12 Pacific island nations over four years.
The patrol boats are being gifted by Australia, complete with through-life training and support, under the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP).
Timor-Leste will receive two Guardians in 2023, providing much-needed maritime surveillance and response capability.
The important visit gave the delegation firsthand experience of the patrol boat’s unique design, systems, equipment, habitability, operational capabilities and manoeuvrability.
The delegation included F-FDTL Inspector General, Brigadier General Cornelio Xemenes ‘Maunana’, Ministry Defence Director Maia Goncalves Martinho, 2nd Tenente Ermenio dos Santos and 2nd Tenente Jacinto Nascimento, who were escorted by Timor-Leste Ministry of Defence Adviser, David Seymour and Senior Defence Cooperation Program Navy Adviser, Lieutenant Commander Mark Sorby.
Commanding Officer Te Mataili II, Inspector Seleganui Fusi, and his officers were very proud to showcase their new ship with a guided tour and a demonstration underway in the vicinity of Cairns Harbour.
Brigadier Maunana and Mr Martinho experienced being deployed in the sea boat from the uniquely designed stern launch position, and also manoeuvred the ship during a man overboard exercise.
Tuvalu’s Commissioner of Police also welcomed a Timor-Leste Naval officer to join the vessel for part of its passage to its home port in Funafuti, Tuvalu,
The Commanding Officer said the high standard of training his crew received from the Australian Defence Cooperation Program’s Sea Training Group had improved their ability to perform well together and meet the required standards.
The Timor-Leste delegation also visited HMAS Cairns to be briefed on Cairns Naval Base facilities in anticipation of future visits when the patrol boats operate in the Pacific or undergo maintenance.
When thanking the Commanding Officer and ship’s company for their warm hospitality, Brigadier Maunana presented Inspector Seleganui with a traditional hand-woven scarf, called a tais, and a DCP crest, wishing them a safe voyage home to Funafuti.
According to Lieutenant Commander Sorby, the visit did more than just showcase capability.
“Not only did the officers and ship’s company of Te Mataili II reveal their ship’s capabilities, they also enjoyed sharing Tuvaluan culture and language, which to everyone’s surprise was similar to Timorese.
“For me, this visit highlighted the important language and cultural links which exist across the PMSP group of nations that could help to promote closer cooperation and support, particularly for Timor-Leste, who is starting from a much lower baseline,” Lieutenant Commander Sorby said.