Australia handed over of a new Guardian-class Patrol Boat, VOEA Ngahau Koula (P301), to the Kingdom of Tonga during a ceremony in Western Australia on June 21.
The vessel was received by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala and Captain Sione Ulakai, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff to Tonga’s His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF). The vessel was signed over to Captain Ulakai by Royal Australian Navy’s Head of Navy Engineering, Rear Admiral Colin Lawrence at the Austal Shipyards at Henderson.
VOEA Ngahau Koula (Golden Arrow) replaces VOEA Savea, a Pacific Forum class patrol boat operated by the Tongan Maritime Force since the late 1980s. A second replacement vessel will follow in 2021. The new Guardian-class vessels are slightly larger, and more capable compared to Pacific Forum-class boats.
Alex Hawke, Australia’s Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, representing the Australian Government at the official ceremony said the Guardian-class Patrol Boats make an important contribution to regional security.
“Tonga is one of Australia’s key partners in the Pacific region and we work closely together to address regional maritime security threats,” Minister Hawke said.
Ngahau Koula is the third of the 21 Guardian Class Patrol Boats, which are being gifted to 12 Pacific nations and Timor-Leste as part of Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. The first Guardian-class Patrol Boat, HMPNGS Ted Diro (P401), was gifted to Papua New Guinea in 2018 and the second, HMTSS Te Mataili II (802), to Tuvalu in April this year.
Australian Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, said the replacement of the Pacific Patrol Boats is an important part of her Government’s $2 billion 30-year commitment to the Pacific region under the Pacific Maritime Security Program.
The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Program (SEA3036), was awarded to Australian shipbuilder, Austal in May 2016 with an additional contract option awarded in April 2018 taking the program to 21 vessels valued at more than AU$335 million.