The Australian government has awarded Austral a contract to build eight new Cape class patrol boats for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
The contract, which provides for the design, construction and through-life support of the vessels, is Austal’s second significant contract with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, having designed and constructed Customs’ current fleet of eight Bay Class vessels, which have been in operation for over 10 years.
The fleet will be built at Austral’s shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia. Construction of the first vessel is expected to commence in February next year, with all eight due to be delivered between March 2013 and August 2015.
The In-Service Support contract extends for a minimum period of eight years and encompasses a full range of intermediate and depot level maintenance activities.
The eight 57.8 metre Cape Class Patrol Boats will play a significant role in protecting Australia’s borders from multiple maritime threats, and have been designed to have greater range, endurance and flexibility, as well as enhanced capability to operate in more severe sea conditions than the current Customs’ fleet, Austral said.
“The Cape Class contract cements Austal’s position as the sole provider of Australia’s Border Protection Command patrol vessels, and as a leading supplier of Australia’s front line border security and surveillance capabilities. It also provides us with the opportunity to continue to work with our long standing partner, DMS Maritime, to provide in-service support for the new Cape Class fleet,” said Austal Chief Executive Officer Andrew Bellamy.
“This contract is significant for Austal in that it is a key first step in the repositioning of our Henderson facilities as a defence focused operation, and reaffirms our position as an emerging global defence prime contractor.”
“Having already designed and built the Royal Australian Navy’s Armidale Class Patrol Boats, today we are the prime contractor for these new Customs vessels as well as for two multi-ship US Navy programs; the Littoral Combat Ships and Joint High Speed Vessels.”
“The Cape Class contract will also aid Austal in sustaining our Henderson workforce,” Bellamy concluded.
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service serves to collect customs revenue and facilitate trade and the movement of people across the Australian border. It also has border protection responsibilities, including ensuring a coordinated response to maritime people smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal fishing.
The latter issue remains a serious concern, although it has been on the decline over the past few years in Australian waters. Fourteen vessels and 86 illegal foreign fishers were apprehended in Australian waters in 2010-11 compared to 23 vessels and 142 fishers in 2009-10 and 367 vessels and 2,961 fishers in 2005-06.
Australia’s borders extend into the 200-nautical-mile (370 km) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where Customs and Border Protection. The Customs Marine Unit maintains a fleet of ocean-going patrol boats known as Australian Customs Vessels (ACVs) and contracts a fleet of long-range aircraft, known as Coastwatch, as the basis for a civil maritime surveillance.