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Gift Pacific patrol boats have major defects

Austal’s vessels have a chequered history, including bad cracking and delays due to the use of poor quality aluminium


| Schwartz Media

MELBOURNE - Major design flaws have been identified among a fleet of Australian patrol boats given to Pacific nations.

The flaws include cracks in the exhaust that allow carbon monoxide to enter a compartment, cracking in the coupling linking the engine and gearbox, and poor ventilation in sick bays.

The $2.1 billion (K5.1 billion) program to give 22 Guardian-class patrol boats to Pacific nations was a key plank of the Morrison government’s Pacific Step-up initiative.

The faults have triggered an urgent dash to Pacific nations by Defence department officials to assess the boats.

“The Guardian-class patrol boats are the sovereign property of individual Pacific Island nations," the department said in a statement.

“Each nation will make its own decision on whether they choose to continue to operate their vessels, or pause operations.

“New Defence Industry and Pacific minister Pat Conroy was told about the issues only 10 days ago, despite the former government being aware of them for months ago.

“Former defence minister Peter Dutton talked a big game on national security but has left yet another mess in defence capabilities for the new government to clean up,” Conroy said.

Western Australia-based shipbuilder Austal accepted blame and will pay to fix the defects.

Austal’s vessels have a chequered history, including bad cracking and delays due to use of poor quality aluminium.

The boats program is a key part of Australia’s efforts to preserve its geopolitical influence in the Pacific region.


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