Customs Marine Unit operated three vessels under charter. The northern patrol vessel, ACV Triton, is a large, armed patrol and response trimaran. Built in the UK in 2000 as a multihull prototype demonstrator, the ship is 98 meters in length. The vessel's three parallel hulls are reflected in her name which refers to the maritime god Triton who carried the three-pronged spear, the trident. The outriggers are thinner and much shorter than the dominant central hull.
The ship spent the period January 2006 – October 2015 on contract as an OPV in the service of the Australian Government’s Border Force (ABF) undertaking long range Northern waters and Indian Ocean patrol. The ABF roles included fisheries protection, countering unauthorised immigration and other complimentary maritime border security activities. This ABF mission saw the ship on patrol operations for more than 300 days per year and steam on average 4500 nautical miles per month often in very remote areas of the Indian Ocean and its environs using rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to board vessels of interest. The TRITON’s operational availability across this 8 year period exceeded 95% making it the most reliable vessel in the ABF Fleet.
Australia has 36,000 kilometres of coastline and an offshore maritime area of nearly 15 million square kilometers. Customs and Border Protection protects Australia’s borders from the entry of illegal and harmful goods, the threat of illegal fishing, and the entry of unauthorised people on boats identified as SIEV [Suspect Irregular Entry Vessel]. Customs and Border Protection also plays a role in environmental protection. Customs and Border Protection vessels operate out to and beyond Australia’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, in coastal waters and in commercial and recreational ports and harbors.
The ACV Triton is a large armed patrol and response vessel that significantly enhanced Customs and Border Protection’sability to patrol and enforce Australia’s northern fisheries. Built in the UK in 2000, the 98-meter diesel-electric powered vessel is one of the largest motorised trimarans in the world. It has a top speed of 20 knots and is capable of operating at sea for extended periods. High-power propulsion plants are needed for trimarans and whilst these are straightforward to fit into wider-bodied monohulls, the trimaran's narrower centrehull makes installing these a far more challenging issue, if the advantage of increased efficiency offered by the slimmer hullforms is not to be compromised.
A former hydrographic survey vessel in the UK, the ACV Triton was selected for its range, speed and capability of operating independently or as a commandship, working in tandem with other Customs and Border Protection and Royal Australian Navy patrol boats. RV Triton was designed as a trimaran technology demonstrator.
The RV Triton is a 1200-ton steel constructed vessel, 318 ft in overall length, 295 ft between perpendiculars, and 73.8 ft in beam length, which is about two-thirds the length of the Royal Navy’s Future Surface Combatant (FSC) frigate requirement. The contract for the build was awarded in the fall of 1998. The first steel was cut in January of 1999. RV Triton was launched in May 2000, with delivery to Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in September. The first trials began in October 2000 in Rosyth, Scotland. The RV Triton was built using Det Norske Veritas (DNV) high-speed light craft rules and was designed and built by Vosper-Thornycroft in the Woolston Southampton yard.
The ACV Triton patroled northern Australian waters and was supported by a civilian maritime crew of 14, and could carry up to 28 armed Customs and Border Protection Boarding Party officers. The trimaran is equipped with two high-speed Norsafe tenders for conducting boarding operations. The ACV Triton has the capacity to hold up to 98 people for short periods. People being transported will be transferred ashore for processing and potential prosecution.
Maritime Operations Support Branch has overall command of the Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit and provides personnel and logistic supportto combat illegal activity in Australia’s waters. All armed Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit boarding party personnel are required to satisfy and maintain mandatory security, medical, dental, fitness and psychometric standards as part of their conditions of employment.
The prevailing weather conditions on and around Christmas Island in the early hours of 15 December 2010 were nothing short of atrocious. The region was experiencing 40 knot winds, thunderstorms, and a wave height of 3–4 metres. Visibility was as low as 150 metres. It was, according to locals, amongst the worst weather ever experienced on the island. At about 5:40am a vessel now known as SIEV 221 [Suspected Irregular Entry Vessel] was sighted some distance from Rocky Point, off the coast of Christmas Island. When its engine failed shortly after 5.40am, the boat began drifting toward the rocks. The boat, crammed full of men, women and children, was repeatedly smashed against Christmas Island's jagged rocks by powerful waves. Many of those who entered the water grabbed onto the flotsam and jetsam as the boat quickly broke up.Residents tried to help victims by throwing them life jackets and other objects. Some refugees were battered by the debris from the disintegrating boat and some were able to use the life jackets thrown from the shore. Rescue efforts by Australian Customs and Border Protection included allocation of HMAS Pirie and ACV Triton. Rescuers recovered the bodies of 30 men, women and children. Forty two passengers survived the incident – 22 men, nine women, seven male and four female children. Up to 20 others remained missing, presumed dead in Australia’s worst civil maritime disaster in more than a century.
Several of the survivors from the boat that day and others who lost relatives in the disaster launched a class action to sue the Australian government, alleging that government agents were negligent in failing to respond to the unfolding disaster quickly enough. The plaintiffs argued that the Australian government knew, or should have known, that the boat was unseaworthy, and that the government had a duty of care to assist those on board, particularly when it became apparent the boat’s distress presented a SOLAS – safety of life at sea – situation. Two ships, the ACV Triton and HMAS Pirie, were in a position to assist and were not dispatched in time to save the stricken vessel, the court was told.
The West Australian coroner conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into the Christmas Island disaster. The inquiry found there was the risk of another maritime tragedy unless rescue capabilities at the island were improved. The Federal Government agreed to act on most of the recommendations. It said it will examine better ways to monitor the island and its surrounding waters, as well as to acquire two more rescue boats.
In October 2018 Triton was listed for sale with Ocean Independence. Triton is asking €10,000,000. Triton was ready to be used as is or a bespoke Naval Architect service to look at converting her to either a Superyacht support vessel or a Superyacht for those looking for Naval ship appearance and design. The boat had been moored in Great Yarmouth for around two years, owned by Gardline, part of Dutch company Boskalis. The vessel left the quay on 27 July 2019 on the morning high water tide at 6am, transiting to Hull to allow the Environment Agency to carry out flood protection work along the quay. The ship was listed with yacht brokers, Ocean Independence, who say they have had a flurry of interest.
The TRITON is an 18 year old vessel that has been rigorously maintained to DNV-GL Class (commercial) since Gardline acquired the ship in 2004 from the UK Government. Class is currently suspended whilst the ship is laid up pending long term charteror sale, when Class will be restored by the current owners of TRITON. Until recently, the ship has also had to meet very stringent Australian Government operational readiness and reliability requirements. TRITON is in very good condition for its age and is assessed as about half way through its operational life. There are currently no major defects that will affect the operation of the ship now in its primary OPV and secondary hydrographic and oceanographic survey roles and no major equipment change out or overhaul is planned to take place until the next scheduled docking in early 2020, when the port main engine will be due for change out. An un reconditioned spare engine (the previous starboard engine changed out for a new one in 2015) is held as a rotatable spare.
Gardline will also consider a charter to buy arrangement. If purchased or chartered, various forms of vessel management and operating support can be “bolted” onto the arrangement to meet the client’s requirements as needed. Gardline proposed the BIMCO standard contract pro forma be used for either a sale or charter to buy. Gardline is willing to discuss preferential finance options for the sale, including vendor finance for a charter to buy arrangement and is open to negotiations on the cash price of the ship.
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