Marine Link
Sunday, July 14, 2024

Fiji's Brand New Patrol Boat Runs Aground

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

June 18, 2024

(Photo: Republic of Fiji Navy)

(Photo: Republic of Fiji Navy)

Responders are working to salvage Fiji's brand new naval patrol boat, which ran aground during its maiden voyage last week.

The vessel, RFNS Puamau, is a Guardian-class Patrol Boat (GCPB) built by Austal for the Australian Department of Defence, which gifted the vessel to the Republic of Fiji Navy.

Just months after the vessel's official handover in March, it hit a reef on Fiji's remote Lau group of islands on June 10, during its first patrol.

Now salvors are working to recover the stricken vessel while minimizing environmental impacts, including a potential oil spill. The Navy said Tuesday that debunkering operations are nearly completed.

A second salvage vessel is en route with specialized recovery equipment and personnel to remove the patrol boat from the reef.

Meanwhile Navy divers and engineers remain on scene and continue to monitor the situation as the full extent of the damage is unkonwn.

"Since the grounding, only the stern compartment experienced water ingress, which has been isolated and currently being managed. The vessel’s position and stability on the reef's outer edge slope continues to be monitored by the Navy salvage team on site," the Navy said in a statement.

The crew of the stricken patrol boat were taken to shore aboard Puamau's sister vessel, RFNS Savenaca, on Saturday. No injuries were reported.

"As directed by the Commander RFMF, due process with regards to the Board of Inquiry for this incident will convene soon to gather all factual evidence and formulate their findings and recommendations for the inquiry," the Navy said.

Puamau is the 19th GCPB delivered under Australia's Pacific Maritime Security Program, which is designed to aid the neighboring Pacific Island nations, such as Timor-Leste, Fiji, Palau, Kiribati and Tonga.

Two GCPBs were destroyed by cyclones that hit Tuvalu last year, and one was damaged beyond repair in Samoa in 2021