Coastal Patrol, Offshore Patrol, and Maritime Defence – September 2004
The Small End: EEZ Patrol Downunder
Maritime Security: Australian Offshore Patrol Vessels –
the Fremantle, Bay, and
New Armidale-Class Patrol Boats
The Royal Australian Navy's Fremantle- class are responsible for patrolling both Australia's
coastlines and its Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ). By any definition ( including RAN's ) the 41m
Fremantles would be considered 'patrol boats', not Offshore Patrol Vessels despite being tasked
with securing Australia's EEZ.
RAN shares coastal patrol duties with the Australian Customs' National Marine Unit (see:
the Australian Approach to Maritime Security). The NMU is part
of Coastwatch and maintains a fleet of eight unarmed Bay
class patrol boats. The Bay class was the basis for one of three proposals to replace the aging
Fremantle class patrol boats.
Australian Armidale Class – Replacements for Fremantle Class Patrol
Austal had developed a simplified Bay class boat primarily for export. This variant was
lightly armed. Such would be adequate for most customs patrols but redesign was required to
suit naval OPV duties.
Replacing the Fremantle class did receive a great deal of international attention. This
was primarily due to each competing design employing different construction materials. The
ADI submission followed the Italian glassfibre approach. Tenix favoured conventional welded steel. But,
the winning submission was the Austal design based on that firm's welded- aluminum Bay class customs
RAN's new Armidale class boats – the first of which is due for delivery in 2005 –
are dramatically different compared to the Bays, being stretched to 57m and armed with a
remote-controlled, 25mm gun. The Armidale-class are intended for extremes including
the rougher waters south of Tasmania. But, not being ice-resistant (a DND obsession) and being even
smaller than the CF Kingston-class MCDV, the other- wise fine
Armidales will most likely be out of the running for any Canadian OPV.
[ Update: the Dec 2003 contract for 12 Armidale class patrol
boats was increased to 14 hulls in 2004. All were commissioned in the RAN between Jun 05 & Feb 08.]
Nevertheless, there are lessons to be gleaned from the Fremantle replacement:
Begin the replacement project before the original vessels are completely worn out. (The
Fremantle-class due to be replaced were only delivered in the 1980s.)
Support shipbuilding as a strategic industry. The RAN was able to exploit the growth potential of
the Bay class and its welded aluminum construction because Australian shipbuilders had been encouraged to
develop innovative techniques.
Also see: Iceland's Coast Guard – a Case-Study for Corvette-sized