In his word, Solomon Islands has greatly benefitted for more than 30 years and more from the Australian Defence cooperation agreement with Australia which has seen the delivery of maritime patrol vessels to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, and the latest Guardian class vessel to be named ‘Taro’ being delivered in May this year.
Australia handed over another Guardian-class patrol boat to the government of the Solomon Islands in a ceremony held on 8 November last year at the facilities of shipbuilder Austal in Henderson, Western Australia.
The vessel, which was named RSIPV Gizo (pennant number 05), was one of the 21 boats of the class being given by Canberra to 12 Pacific Island Nations and Timor-Leste as part of Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (also known as Sea 3036) programme.
Gizo, replaced the decommissioned Pacific-class patrol boat Lata.
The Sea 3036 programme, seeks to enhance the security of Australia’s maritime region by augmenting the maritime capabilities of its immediate neighbours.
When I first arrived in Honiara to assume my duties as the Commissioner of Police, I was accommodated for the first few days in the Mendana Hotel and one of my first memories when drawing open the curtains in the room was seeing the patrol vessels Savo, Lata, and Auki berthed just a short distance away.
Savo was then an old vessel and it was decommissioned soon after my arrival, leaving just Lata and Auki for operational maritime patrols and duties.
The two vessels would go to Australia for regular maintenance and servicing before returning home to a welcome ceremony, customary attended by myself, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, members of the RSIPF Executive, and with the RSIPF Band in attendance.
It was always good to see the return of the patrol vessels with their crews smartly turned out for the occasion.
I have said it is sad to know the Auki is being retired from service after 30 years, but I am pleased the replacement vessel from Australia, the RSIPV ‘Taro’ will carry the flag and continue the fine tradition of the former patrol craft in serving the nation for many years to come.
I wish all who will command and crew the Taro and Gizo a safe passage aboard.
Given that there is a stand-off of sorts between the national and Malaita provincial governments, and given that the two latest patrol boats being assigned names in honor of Western and Choiseul Provinces, where does Malaita feature in the scheme of things?