a Review of
– Australia –
Port Security, Coastal Patrol, & Maritime Defence – July 2004
Maritime Security: Lessons Learned from Other Middle- Power's Approaches to Guarding the Coasts – Australia
Excerpts from a Senate Committee on National Security and Defence report* – The Honorable Colin Kenny,
The Australian Approach to Maritime Security
Coastline Length: 66, 530.3 km
Dimensions of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): 6, 664, 107 km2
Organizations Responsible for Maritime Security:
1) Coastwatch, which is responsible for Australian maritime surveillance.
2) The Australian Defence Force (ADF) [which consists of the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, the
Royal Australian Air Force, plus the reserves].
Coastwatch – General Description:
Instead of a coast guard, Australia has Coastwatch, a division of the Australian Customs Service (ACS) since its
tranfer from the Department of Transport back in 1988. Coastwatch manages and controls Australia's
civilian coastal and offshore maritime surveillance and response program. It does not defend
Australia's boundaries (this is the ADF's job), or monitor its many large ports (a separate division
of the ACS handles Australia's ports).
Coastwatch has no assets or legislative responsibilities to fulfill. It exists only to serve the
aggregate needs of its government clients. Coastwatch uses contracted
aircraft , RAAF P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft, armed RAN Fremantle class patrol
vessels, and eight Bay class patrol boats operated by Customs' National Marine Unit (NMU).
The Customs vessels (which have a range of 370km and top speed of 46 km/h) are unarmed, but the Customs
personnel who crew these boats do carry sidearms.
Australia's civil agencies can intercept ships and make arrests. According to Rod Stone, Coastwatch
Director of Operations, "the Navy only infrequently becomes involved in providing support to the civil
powers in offshore interceptions and apprehensions." The exception is the ongoing Operation Reflex
in northern Australian waters, which targets illegal people-smuggling out of Indonesia.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) Operations in Support of Coastwatch:
Aside from Operation Reflex, ADF contributions to the civil maritime surveillance
and response program comprise some 1,800 sea-days from the patrol boat fleet, and 250 hours per year from the
fleet of RAAF P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft [similar to the CF's CP-140 Aurora].
The long-range P-3Cs are used to extend the Coastwatch's reach
into areas that cannot be covered by using its shorter-range contracted aircraft.
Coastwatch-ADF relations have been strengthened in recent years. The undetected arrival of several
vessels carrying illegal migrants off Australia's west coast in 1999 led to calls for the military to take
over maritime security. Instead, ADF/Coastwatch links were tightened – the current head of Coastwatch is a
serving RAN rear admiral. Coastwatch also has a strong connectivity with the defence intelligence community
adding considerably to Coastwatch's ability to be in the right place at the right time. And, considering
the vastness of Coastwatch's area of responsibility, this ability is essential to its success.
 Coastwatch's aerial fleet is comprised of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
1 Bell 412EP [similar to the CF's CH-146]
with an infra-red detection
1 Bell 206L Longranger IV (left).
Fixed-Wing Aircraft (Visual Surveillance):
6 Pilatus Britten-Norman Islanders
1 Shrike AC 500 Aero Commander
Fixed-Wing Aircraft (Visual Surveillance and Radar Work Adjacent to the Shore):
3 Reims F406s (above) equipped with 360°
belly radar and night vision equipment.
5 Bombardier/DHC Dash 8-200s (left) with
digital radar and electro-optical sensors,
including a Wescam infra-red turret.
Coastwatch DeHavilland Canada Dash 8s are similar to the CF's CT-142 'Gonzo'
(although the latter are not used for maritime patrol). The Coastwatch Reims F406 is conceptually similar to
the Beech King Airs leased by DFO and used by DND.