Malta, the island state wedged between Europe and Africa has selected Australian shipyard Austal to build it four 21.2 metre inshore patrol craft.
Intended to assist the AFM with surveillance and border protection throughout Malta’s coastal waters, the vessels will have a maximum speed of more than 26 knots and will be capable of supporting 7.62mm and 12.7mm guns.
An Austal media release says the new order adds to the company`s current patrol craft contracts comprising six high speed vessels for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard and three patrol catamarans for the Queensland Police. Austal also has contracts to design and build the US Navy’s 127-metre Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and 103-metre Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).
Managing Director Bob Browning said Austal was fielding increased interest from nations seeking fast and economical aluminium patrol craft for protection against modern-day coastal border security threats.
“Following significant patrol boat deliveries to countries including Yemen, Kuwait and Australia, Austal is pleased to add Malta to its growing defence customer base while making important inroads into the traditionally self-reliant European defence market,” Browning said.
Austal was awarded the contract following a competitive international tender process, which called for a proven design that addressed specific AFM requirements, as well as meeting a demanding delivery schedule, the press release added.
Once completed, the order will bring Austal’s total number of defence vessels to more than 60, including the 14 Armidale Class patrol boats built for the Royal Australian Navy, 10 vessels for Yemen and eight Australian Customs vessels.
Austal Vice President – Global Defence Sales, John Caccivio said Austal’s advanced aluminium defence platforms – typified by their speed, shallow drafts, flexibility and reduced maintenance costs – were finding increased global relevance.
“To now extend our reach to the European defence market – a market that usually shows preference towards domestic builds – underlines not only the uniqueness of the Austal product but also the evolution of maritime security challenges, such as piracy and terrorism, within global littoral waters,” Caccivio said.
By utilising a planing aluminium hull, the 21.2 metre inshore patrol craft combines economical performance at all operational speeds with superior seakeeping in varying sea conditions.
Speaking at Wednesday`s contract signing ceremony in Malta, AMF Lt Col Martin Sammut said the vessels were a logical progression from the AMF’s current fleet.
“These patrol vessels will enhance the border surveillance capabilities owing to better sea-keeping characteristics, extended range of operations, and better endurance than the current inshore patrol boats. These aluminium vessels will be operated by a maximum crew of 8 personnel and will be a major improvement in crew comfort and safety owing to better crew accommodation and enhanced catering and messing facilities,” Samut added.