The government of Timor-Leste has accepted Australia’s offer of two new Guardian-class Pacific Patrol Boats (PPBs) to boost its maritime security capabilities, according to a 4 November statement by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“Based on current build schedules, delivery of Timor-Leste’s vessels will occur in June and September 2023,” said Turnbull following a 3 November meeting with his Timorese counterpart, Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri, at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in Perth.
In a separate statement David Singleton, CEO of Australian shipbuilder Austal, said the PPB programme “is intended to aid regional security in the South Pacific by helping to secure the Timor-Leste maritime border, and represents an example of defence diplomacy fostering close relations between countries in the Asia Pacific.”
The two boats, which are being offered along with long-term training, advisory, maintenance, infrastructure, and other support, will increase to 21 the number of vessels to be built under Australia’s SEA 3036 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) programme, which will now involve 13 nations.
Under the programme Austal was initially set to build 19 vessels that would be donated to 12 Pacific Island nations as part of Australia's security assistance to the region, with the project valued at AUD306 million (USD234 million).
The steel-hulled vessels are set to replace the 22 Pacific-class vessels donated by Australia to regional operators including Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and the Federated States of Micronesia in the 1980s and 1990s.
The vessels are to be deployed to undertake maritime security tasks and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) protection over wide areas. Sustainment of the vessels is to take place in the northern Queensland town of Cairns.
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