LETTERS | Another Guardian-class patrol boat for Samoa?

The Samoa Police Service's Guardian-class patrol boat Nafanua II during the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency’s Operation Kurukuru, November 13, 2020 (Photo: US Embassy in Samoa)

What on earth have the Samoans done to Australia, that warrants us giving them another Guardian patrol boat when it is of no use to them?

In 1976, Australia donated the ferry Queens Salamasina, designed and built in Western Australia, which was too deep in draught to get within 200 metres of the ferry terminal at Mulifanua. The ferry became an economic millstone around the neck of Samoa.

Three years ago, we gave them a Guardian patrol boat, Nafanua II, a skinny monohull with exposed propellers and rudders either side of the keel, absolutely useless for South Pacific small harbour access, and easily damaged, which it was. So after a AU$2 million exercise bringing it by barge all the way to Cairns, it was classed as a total write-off.

Just firing up the high-powered Guardian-class boats adversely affects the GDP of these nations, so most of the time they lie idle. Only Fiji’s Sitiveni Rabuka has had the boldness to say to Australia in 2002 at the Interferry Conference on the Gold Coast, “Please do not treat us as beggars and give us a boat that carries 14 people and a gun. When I have hundreds of my people stranded on a beach after a cyclone or tsunami, I need a practical vessel that can carry and land ambulances, medical aid, bulldozers, etc.”

So now with the usual patronising attitude, our Foreign Minister says, “We are giving you another Guardian-class patrol boat as a gift”. The inexperienced Minister Wong should have added, “Or is there something else you would prefer?” The Samoans would have answered promptly, as they have a good knowledge of what vessel types work, but are too gracious a race to reject this unwanted gift.

Australia has a track record of foisting unsuitable “gifts” into the South Pacific, hence the Chinese had an easy entry to all these nations by asking “What would you like?” (despite the underlying terms and conditions).

Stuart Ballantyne

Owner, Sea Transport Solutions

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