Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Hon. Penny Wong, who was in Samoa on a state visit to coincide with Samoa’s 60th independence anniversary, announced Australia would be providing a guardian-class patrol boat for Samoa, to replace the Nafanua II.
The Nafanua II was a guardian-class patrol boat valued at $30 million tala (AUD$15m) gifted as part of Australia’s AUD$2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program in the Pacific, which provided 22 patrol boats to 12 of its smaller Pacific Forum allies. Built in Australia for Samoa and commissioned in 2019, the Nafanua II was itself a replacement for the original Nafanua, supplied to Samoa by Australia three decades earlier.
In August 2021 Nafanu II ran aground on a reef near Salelologa wharf while transporting police officers to Savai’i. It was successfully salvaged in September and loaded onto a barge for transport to Australia. However, a joint statement from the Samoa and Australian governments later confirmed the vessel was beyond economical repair, and its ownership was being transferred back to the Australian Government to seek options for disposal.
At a joint press conference with Samoa Prime Minister Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa at the Taumeasina Island Resport on Thursday, Senator Hon. Penny Wong announced that the Australian Government would be gifting Samoa a replacement for the patrol boat.
“Support from Australia for maritime patrol boats has been an important part of our relationship and I was pleased to advise the Prime Minister, that Australia would announce today, a replacement guardian-class patrol boat to replace the Nafanua II,” stated Wong.
Senator Penny Wong said the replacement patrol boat, which would be built in Australia, is due to be delivered sometime next year, in view of the required production time.
“We are very pleased to provide a replacement. We do understand how important these maritime assets are to island nations,” said Wong.
In response, Prime Minister Fiame expressed Samoa’s appreciation to the government and people of Australia.
“I think it’s very generous on the part of the Australian government and people that they are gifting us yet another patrol boat, despite the unfortunate circumstances of our last boat,” said Fiame.
“I hope that the lessons learnt from that unfortunate occurrence will help us ensure that we can keep these assets that are generously gifted by our partners, and especially in a very critical area of our maritime security.”
The commander of the Nafanua II who had brought the vessel from Australia, Superintendent Taito Sefo Hunt, was subsequently charged with five counts of misconduct. A hearing into the charges by the police disciplinary tribunal found that Hunt was the officer-in-charge of the ship at the time of the accident. He was found guilty on three charges of negligence by a Police disciplinary tribunal, fined $2,000 tala and demoted from superintendent to corporal.