Australia to donate landing craft to Tonga
Australia will donate a new landing craft to Tonga's defence service in 2015.
14 years after its last landing craft was decommissioned, the Tonga Defence Services is to get a replacement, gifted by the Australian Ministry of Defence.
The 30-metre craft , which has a value of 4. 7 million US dollars, is expected to be received by Tonga next year.
Indira Moala reports.
The new landing craft, will replace the Late which was decommissioned in 2000.Major Mama Misi says the Defence Force had been relying on patrol boats and other shipping vessels ever since. But the effects of the tsunami which hit the Niua Islands in 2009 as well as the devastation of the Ha'apai islands after it was hit by Tropical Cyclone Ian earlier this year, confirmed the urgent need for a replacement landing craft.
MAMA MISI: During the Tsunami up in Niua group we saw there's an urgent (need) to fill the gap in the capabilities of the service and we had to use other civilians to send cargo and support up to the tsunami victims up north. And during Tropical cyclone Ian there was a heavy reliance on the civilian craft and service. Even the patrol boats were utilized. And we identified that we need to ask again for the replacement of the landing craft.
Australia's Minister of Defence David Johnston said the vessel will be gifted to the Kingdom of Tonga as a sign of Australia's long standing commitment to the South Pacific. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, Mark Dodd says the landing craft will certainly strengthen the relationship they already have with Tonga.
MARK DODD: Australia's got a long and deep-standing defence relationship with Tonga and that's centred on support for three pacific patrol boats. There's also a significant training program for Tonga's land forces and Tonga's made a significant contribution to regional security through the RAMSI mission and also Tonga's contribution to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. So there is a long standing defence relationship with Australia and the gifting of the landing craft should be seen in that context.
The contract for the construction of the vessel has been awarded to Newcastle shipbuilder Forgacs who expect to employ a team of 30 specialists for its construction. Australia will also deliver a range of services in support of the vessel's operation, including engineering, technical and logistical support.
MARK DODD: I think they had an LCM8 and this is a much more effective landing craft with very excellent sea-keeping qualities. It'll certainly enhance the Tongan military's capacity to get out to those remote communities but also it'll be a significant boost to help it's own domestic humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
Major Misi says the vessel will significantly improve their services to the country.
MAMA MISI: I think there's excitement for our maritime - our navy site. We have start selecting crews and start training them for this vessel and His Majesty's Armed forces will be more capable to support our government and the communities up in the Northern Islands. Especially with the Isolated communities where the landing craft will go straight to their beach and offload their cargo in time of national emergency.
The vessel is expected to be delivered to Tonga by mid-2015.
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