20 April 2016
From the High Commissioner's Desk: A Safe and Secure Solomon Islands
Among the more visible manifestations of Australia’s support to Solomon Islands are the two patrol boats, Auki and Lata, operated by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. In addition to the boats themselves, Australia provides ongoing assistance with operations and maintenance, including through two Royal Australian Navy personnel who work closely with the RSIPF Maritime Unit.
The two patrol boats have served Solomon Islands well. Whether protecting the country’s valuable tuna fisheries, conducting search and rescue operations or helping to secure the border, they’ve been workhorses for the nation.
But Auki and Lata are both nearing the end of their operational lives and will soon need to be retired. The Australian Government has therefore undertaken to replace them with two brand new patrol boats.
This week, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne announced that the new patrol boats would be built by Austal Shipping, a very experienced shipbuilding company based in Western Australia.
The new patrol boats will be bigger and more capable than the Auki and Lata; and Australia will continue to help Solomon Islands operate and maintain them. Once they’re built and delivered over the next five years or so, these new boats will ensure Solomon Islands can continue to protect its fisheries, its resources and its people for decades to come.
This week we’re also helping to secure Solomon Islands’ fisheries resources through our support to a regional fisheries surveillance operation being conducted by the FFA. Australia is contributing a P3-C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, which is capable of flying long missions to help spot any boats that might be fishing illegally in Solomon Islands waters.
If Solomon Islands is to fully harness the potential of its fish stocks – including through a second cannery – it’ll need to ensure those stocks are protected and well-managed. Between the patrol boats, the help with maritime surveillance operations and our core funding support to the FFA, we’re glad to be making a contribution. Especially if it means I can keep eating Soltuna Chilli Tuna, to which I fear I’ve become slightly addicted!
Last week the High Commission participated in the RAMSI Enhanced Consultative Mechanism, which enables all of RAMSI’s stakeholders – including the Solomon Islands Government, the Pacific Islands Forum and contributing nations – to review RAMSI’s progress and consider its future direction.
As Special Coordinator Quinton Devlin subsequently reported, much of the discussion focussed on the likelihood that RAMSI’s mission will end in June 2017, subject to approval by Forum leaders later this year.
RAMSI has been a great success and continues to make a strong contribution to the RSIPF. Australia is very proud to be part of it. But even if, as expected, RAMSI departs next year, Australia isn’t going anywhere. Our commitment to the security and stability of Solomon Islands will endure well beyond RAMSI.