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Serious defects discovered in patrol boats: Te Kukupa II ‘passed initial inspections’

Saturday 2 July 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Local, National

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Serious defects discovered in patrol boats: Te Kukupa II ‘passed initial inspections’
Te Kukupa II. Photo: Supplied/22060901

The Australian Government is embarking on a forced-recall of several patrol boats it gifted to Pacific Island nations, but this is not expected to affect the Cook Islands-bound Te Kukupa II.

On Thursday, the Guardian reported Pacific Island countries may halt the use of Australian-provided Guardian class patrol boats after potentially serious defects were discovered, in a blow to a $2.1 billion maritime security programme.

It reported that one of the problems – cracking in the coupling between the engine and the gear box – is believed to have been discovered in February 2021 and Pacific Island countries were notified at the time. Two other problems emerged during the Australian election campaign, but were not disclosed publicly until now.

The news comes not too long after the Australian Government confirmed the handover of the Te Kukupa II, which is scheduled to arrive in the Cook Islands this month.

However, the Australian High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Dr Christopher Watkins said: “I’m pleased to advise the Te Kukupa II has passed its initial inspections in Western Australia and is on its way to Cairns for its next service stop prior to departing for home.”

“We do not expect significant delays to its arrival home, but that will be determined once it reaches Cairns and undergoes its first maintenance stop,” Watkins said.

“In Cairns, engineers will conduct a final check before it sets out for the Cook Islands, and we will continue to support the Police Service should any maintenance issues arise.”

Cook Islands News on Thursday approached the Prime Minister’s Office for comments. PM Mark Brown was in Australia last month for the handover of Te Kukupa II.

Australia’s Minister for Defence Industry, International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy said of the Patrol Boat programme: “The safety of our Pacific partners is of utmost importance, and we are committed to working through all challenges together to make sure these boats are safe and operational.”

“We understand how important these vessels are for Australia and our partners in the Pacific. The Guardian patrol boats play a critical role in maritime surveillance activities as well as detecting and deterring illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” Conroy said.