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Papua New Guinea - Maritime Operations Element

PNG has 5,152km of coastline and a 2.7 million square km exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Areas of direct interest include the Bismarck Sea, Solomon Sea, Gulf of Papua, Torres Strait, and the maritime border with the Solomon Islands. The EEZ is rich in fisheries resources and subject to intense legal and illegal fishing from domestic and international sources. The area is potentially vulnerable to international drug and arms smuggling and piracy. Deterring and responding to these activities requires regular maritime surveillance to enforce regulation and intercept and arrest transgressors.

PNG has a valuable fisheries sector ranging from inland river fisheries, aqua culture, coastal, and reef fisheries to prawn trawling and largescale deep-water tuna fisheries. PNG's 2,437,480 million square kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone is one of the largest marine jurisdictional zones in the Pacific and the richest in fisheries resources in the region. The operation of illegal foreign fishing vessels in PNG waters, particularly in the Dogleg area to the west of the Papuan Gulf, has been a serious issue for PNG, especially given its limited capacity to monitor, let alone control, its extensive territorial waters.

Some attempts have been made to address the problems of illegal fishing on a regional basis through the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Australia has supported the efforts of PNG and other Pacific island states to improve their maritime security and protect their fisheries through the Pacific Patrol Boat Program and assistance in aerial surveillance.

The vast areas to be patrolled warrants increased coordination with constabulary, fisheries, customs, and possibly with the surveillance efforts of PNGs neighbors. In this respect, the establishment of the National Surveillance Coordination Centre (NSCC) is commended and is deserving of greater inter-agency support and representation.

To maximise the effectiveness of air surveillance and maritime vessel response, the location of forward operating bases for response elements should be strategically situated to reduce transit times. Maritime patrols would benefit from complementary shore-based support including interagency intelligence sharing, surveillance and communications infrastructure and, if possible, international and domestic air surveillance support.

The naval branch of the PNGDF is mainly a light patrol force and is responsible for defending local waters only. The navy has three primary roles: support for military operations. First use of EEZ Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) protection, and heavy logistic support for the army and civil society.

Even with all patrol boats serviceable, the size of the task of patrolling the vast EEZ is too great. The main concern is illegal tuna fishing by Japanese vessels and the Navy is exploring the possibility of obtaining a 2,000 tonne multipurpose ship or the conversion of a merchant vessel for patrol duties to combat this threat.

Due to the remote nature of most of PNG, much of the travel is conducted by sea. Economic activity is also generally constrained by a lack of transport infrastructure on New Guinea and the many other islands of PNG. About 60 percent of PNGs population is reliant on water transport for the delivery of goods and services. This has resulted in a large number of ports and wharfs being regularly used throughout PNG. The ports of Port Moresby, Lae and Kimbe account for about 80 percent of PNGs sea cargo. PNG ports, the state-run agency in charge of the countrys ports, is currently investing in wharf cranes to increase traffic and is also working to boost container movements at both ports. The agency is also considering the development of another two ports at Vanimo and Wewak to serve a possible gold mine project and expanding facilities at Madang.

The navy is based in Port Moresby and Manus Island - comprising in 2018 of the following vessels: Four Pacific class patrol boats and Two Balikpapan class landing craft. Note there is also an EOD unit (clearance diving) inherent in the PNGDF naval branch. Serviceability, crewing and tasking of maritime vessels is an ongoing issue.

Australia's Pacific Patrol Boat [PPB] program was designed to give Pacific island states the capability to patrol their own EEZs. Twenty-two Pacific class patrol boats were gifted to 12 countries in the South Pacific. The boats are 31.5 meters in length, can travel at 21 knots and have a range of 2500 nautical miles. Each boat was designed to last 15 years. In 2000, Australia extended the program out to 2027, with the DCP funding a life-extension package for the patrol boats at a cost of A$350 million over 25 years, increasing the lifespan of individual boats from 15 to 30 years.

The PPB program is the cornerstone of Australias strategic influence in the region. The Pacific island nations have embraced the program, as the patrol boats have provided them with a credible maritime surveillance capability, allowing them to protect their own maritime resources. For most of the recipient countries, the patrol boats are the only fisheries enforcement vessels they operate. But the PPB program has also provided an asset to Pacific island nations that can be used to address other security and national priorities, such as search and rescue, medical evacuations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and even transporting ballot boxes in national elections. The program gives the Pacific island countries an impressive asset that becomes a status symbol for these countriesa symbol of their sovereignty, fostering national pride. Australian DCP assistance to the PNGDF maritime element (ME) supports an effective PNGDF maritime security capability. DCP technical assistance, maintenance support and operations advice augments the PNGDFs limited resources and develops PNGDF ME skills. This enables the PNGDF ME to fulfil its maritime surveillance responsibilities within PNGs Exclusive Economic Zone.

In addition to DCP assistance to the PNGDF ME, Defence also supports the PNGDF MEs four Pacific Patrol Boats (PPBs). Australia gifted the four PPBs to PNG between 1987 and 1989, and will support them until the end of their life in 2022. In FY13-14, DCP support enabled the PNGDF ME to complete at least ten National Fisheries Authority and two Customs Patrols, and provide humanitarian assistance and respond to natural disasters. Australia gave an RAN LCH during this FY to further enhance the PNGDF ME capability.

Australia delivered 22 Pacific-class patrol boats to Pacific Island nations to date. Over the past 30 years, Papua New Guinea has received four Pacific patrol boats to help improve and strengthen maritime security cooperation between the two nations. The Pacific-class ships will be replaced by new Guardian-class patrol boats under the ADFs Pacific Maritime Security Program. The Pacific-class ships will be replaced by new Guardian-class patrol boats under the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) Pacific Maritime Security Programme.

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