SHIPYARD VISIT BY TONGA’S CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF

Media Release – Monday, 31 August 2015

Today Head Maritime Systems Rear Admiral Mark Purcell hosted Chief of Defence Staff, His Majesty’s Armed Forces, Tonga Brigadier Lord Fielakepa, at the Forgacs Shipyards in Newcastle, to view a just completed landing craft that will join the Tongan Naval Component next month.

The Australian Government is gifting the new Landing Craft Medium, worth approximately $5 million, to the Kingdom of Tonga as part of our Defence Cooperation Program.

Delivery of this vessel will mark a significant milestone in Australia’s Defence relationship with Tonga.

Tonga is an important security partner in the region, and this important will enhance Tonga’s maritime capacity to reach its outer islands.

The Landing Craft Medium will enable Tonga to transfer stores, people, and equipment across its archipelago for nation building activities.

It will support His Majesty’s Armed Forces to deliver emergency supplies to smaller islands in humanitarian response situations, such as Tropical Cyclone Ian which struck the Ha’apai island group on 11 January 2014.

It will also enable Tonga to participate in regional disaster relief operations, such as the response effort following Cyclone Pam in March this year when a Tongan patrol boat was one of the first assets to assist Vanuatu.

I look forward to visiting Tonga to see the vessel in operation in the near future.

The Department of Defence has worked closely with His Majesty’s Armed Forces to successfully deliver this project, including crew training and wharf infrastructure upgrades. Australia will also deliver a range of services in support of the vessel’s operation, including engineering and technical services.

The vessel was constructed by the Australian shipbuilding company, Forgacs, and is currently undertaking final sea trials ahead of being shipped to Tonga in early September.

This project complements Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Program and follow-on Pacific Maritime Security Program, as a practical demonstration of Australia’s enduring commitment to security, stability and development in the South Pacific.