The Fijian Navy’s work on patrolling Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), among other important tasks, is expected to be further enhanced following the handing over of the new RFNS Savenaca, a brand new Guardian-Class Patrol Boat, built by Austal in Australia.
The new naval ship stamps yet another strong commitment under the Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership.
With room for 23 crew and a 3,000 nautical range, Prime Minister Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, received the new vessel on behalf of the Fijian Government at Austal Shipyard, saying the new ship is a beautiful and technologically-advanced addition to the Fijian Navy fleet.
“At the dawn of Fijian independence in 1970, Fiji’s economic sovereignty extended over some 50,000 square miles of ocean. But in the 1980s, our EEZ swelled more than twenty-fold to cover over one million square miles of our planet’s surface,” he said.
“It was following Fiji’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that the Fijian Navy was first formed and shortly thereafter, the Australian-Pacific Patrol Boat Program came to be.  The program has been a pillar of regional security, showing that secure Fijian waters mean secure waters for every nation in our patch of the Pacific.
“One of those Fijians who served in World War Two’s Pacific theatre was a young man named Savenaca Naulutuma. At that time, the Royal New Zealand Navy was charged with Fiji’s defence, and Savenaca served on board the HM NZS Leander. An ocean way from his home, in the vicious fighting at the battle of Kolombangara in the Solomons, he was killed in action.
“Today, we honour his courage and sacrifice as the RFNS Savenaca carries his name and carries on his mission of service to the Fijian people, and all people who call the Pacific their home.”
The new vessel will also boost Fiji’s efforts of cracking down criminal networks particularly, drug trade.
“Most of the narcotics passing through our waters are bound for lucrative markets like Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and other hubs in Australia and New Zealand, but the inevitable spillover makes this an issue far larger than any one market or nation,” Prime Minister Bainimarama added.
“It’s on all of us to band together to keep these criminals out of our waters and keep hard drugs out of our people’s hands. With the RFNS Savenaca in the ranks of our fleet, our capacity to combat drug smugglers will be further bolstered for the benefit of our people and our society at large.
“Fiji stands ready to put our fleet to work to secure a safer Pacific. But we can’t limit our ambition to our region and lose sight of the larger, global challenges to oceans health and security, it’s vital that Pacific nations, along with Australia and New Zealand, press our campaign to save our oceans from the devastation of overfishing, climate change and pollution.
“May this vessel defend our oceans, our people, and the Pacific at-large and thank you again to our vuvale, the Australian people, for their support of a strong Pacific.”
Australia’s Minister for Defence Senator, the Honourable Linda Reynolds said the new ship is another demonstration that the Vuvale Partnership is not just a piece of paper but a real commitment.
“Fiji and Australia’s commitment, cooperation and partnership has now reached another level and it is in the spirit of ‘vuvale’, the RFNS Savenaca was built. The new vessel will certainly enhance Fiji’s sovereign capability to protect its valuable maritime resources and to combat illegal activities that undermine economic prosperity,” she said.
“We will further strengthen ties that will build even greater trust and respect between our two nations particularly, between our navies and defence organisations.
“This is also a capability platform that will enable us to work together to address common challenges in the Pacific. Both our leaders have a shared commitment to build a Pacific region that is strategically secure, economically-stable and also politically sovereign.”
Meanwhile, the ship will berth in Suva next month following a two-year training for its crew in Australia.