The fourth in a building program of 21 Guardian-class patrol boats (GCPB) was officially handed over to Samoa on August 16 at Austal Shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia.

The program is part of the government’s Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project that aims to enhance practical maritime security cooperation across the South Pacific.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the handing over of the latest vessel highlighted the close relationship between the Australian and Samoan governments and their agencies.

“The strong and enduring security partnership we have with the Samoa Police Service is clearly evident as we deepen our defence cooperation through the exchange of the GCPB under the Pacific Maritime Security Program,” Ms Price said.

“I am particularly pleased to see the components of the program coming together to support our Pacific neighbours, with Samoa already acting as a regional hub for aerial surveillance.

“I am honoured to host the Samoan Deputy Prime Minister and Commissioner of Police, along with the crew – including the first three female officers of the Samoa Police Maritime Wing.”

At the ceremony to officially accept the vessel was Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

“I would like to thank the Australian Government for the gifting of this boat, named Nafanua II, to the Samoan Government,” Ms Mata’afa said.

“This is yet another milestone event reflecting the close and cordial relationship between Australia and Samoa, particularly in our continued collaboration on regional security and the monitoring and protection of Samoan sovereign waters.”

The Guardian-class patrol boats are replacing the ageing Pacific-class that were gifted to a number of Pacific nations in the mid-1980s.

The new vessels, that have specially designed electronic engine controls to help conserve fuel, are fitted with twin diesel engines that can provide 400kw of power.

They will allow participating nations to combat a wider range of maritime security issues, such as unlawful fishing and international crime.

Nafanua II will continue to undergo sea trials with personnel from the Royal Australian Navy until she sails on her maiden voyage to Samoa in coming weeks.

A further 17 vessels are being constructed for delivery to 12 Pacific island nations and Timor-Leste.