Member of Parliament for Tanna constituency, Honorable Andrew Napuat recalls his journey and contribution to the new Vanuatu patrol boat project back when his GJP party was in the government cabinet.
“The class patrol boat is a program that Australia wants to assist the Pacific Islands therefore In 2017-2018 we had discussions with the former Minister at that time Alfred Maoh who signed the agreement”.
Speaking to YTS News team, MP Napuat detail all the phases of discussions to the signing, and now Vanuatu awaits the arrival of the boat in Port Vila tomorrow.
Back in 2016-2017, Minister of Internal Affairs then MP Alfred Maoh and MP Andrew Napuat knew about Australian PM Scott Morrison’s Government 2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program.
“Minister Maoh and I quickly agreed that we needed a patrol boat, so Minister Alfred Maoh signed the agreement for a new patrol boat”, he said.
MP Napuat took office as Internal Affairs Minister in 2018 as he was already working in the previous years as Maoh’s Parliamentary Secretary, he continued with many important projects within that portfolio.
“I made it my priority to ensure that this major project must come into fruition so I did my best to maintain a very good and close working relationship with Australia”, he confirmed to YTS News.
Napuat took his international relations to another level. He had very close working relationships with most of his overseas counterpart ministers and his Australian friends. He kept their telephone and WhatsApp contacts to maintain regular networking with them as well as he was regularly calling their phones directly at times or sending WhatsApp messages to follow-up on important projects that they were collaborating on.
“I also kept a good working relationship with Prime Minister Scott Morrison during my meeting with him to brief on important projects that were important to our Police Force and Vanuatu Mobile Force. Most of these projects include; the renovation of police college for the training of new recruits, the building of a new police post at Lakatoro, the development of the Cooks Barracks that is still ongoing, the assistance to the biggest recruitment ever done in the Vanuatu Police Force, uniforms of the Maritime Wing, and many more. The major long term project was the building of a new Guardian-class Patrol Boat for Vanuatu.”
In 2019 he made up his mind that it was time after much talking to actually make a trip to Austal Shipyard in Henderson in Western Australia to see where the patrol boat is going to be built and agree on dates and other details for the project to be completed on schedule.
He made the visit with the Director-General of MoIA, the Acting Commissioner of the Police, the Executive Manager of MoIA and the newly appointed High Commissioner of Vanuatu to Australia based in Canberra, to meet government Ministers, government officials and key institutions to agree and finalize all projects that were under his portfolio.
“In Australia, when we visited Austal Shipyard, it was an eye-opener for us as we saw the Vanuatu flag already up for the project, the project dateline on the board, the dates, details, and the very place where the new Guardian-class Patrol Boat was going to be built. We saw what no others saw at Austal, and had a feel of the Guardian-class Patrol Boat, one that belongs to the Solomon Islands was ready so we had a good tour around to see how our Guardian-class Patrol Boat will be like.”
Amongst the senior officials that Napuat met, he also met the Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds to discuss a range of support to the Vanuatu Police Force including the Guardian-class Patrol Boat and he also met Minister Alex Hawk, the Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister Peter Dutton, as well as Prime Minister Scott Morrison who all gave their word and unwavering support to ensure these projects became a reality for Vanuatu.
The boat was handed over to the Republic of Vanuatu at a ceremony in Henderson, Western Australia, on 30 July 2021.
During the handover ceremony, Australia Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said that the new patrol boat demonstrates the strong security relationship between Vanuatu and Australia.
“I wish to thank Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister Linda Reynolds, Minister Alex Hawk, Minister Marisa Payne, the then Australian High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin, the current High Commissioner Sarah DeZoetan and their key senior officials for fulfilling this project.”
“I am happy that what we envisioned and worked on it hand in hand with our Australian counterparts has finally come to fruition. As our Police Force are all gearing up to join the celebration tomorrow and the big party that might go on around the islands, I feel proud and humble and it was my greatest honour to have made my contribution to this very important milestone achievement for Vanuatu.”
The New Guardian Class Patrol Boat aims to enhance practical maritime security cooperation across the South Pacific. It further strengthens the region’s capability to respond to issues such as fisheries protection, trans-national crime, and search and rescue and has enhanced capabilities with modernized systems than the old RVS Tukoro.