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Rebadged ADV Ocean Protector returns to protect Australia’s borders

FEATURES: Line of Defence, April 2016

On patrol in the Southern Ocean. Image courtesy of Australian Government.On patrol in the Southern Ocean. Image courtesy of Australian Government.

In January, the Australian government acquired the ADV Ocean Protector. It's a unique vessel, owned and operated by the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and utilising Australian Border Force (ABF) personnel.


On 01 March, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s (DIBP) ADV Ocean Protector was moored at Cocos (Keeling) Islands for a change of crew and resupply. It had just completed its first assignment and was about to head back out to sea to patrol the waters off north-western Australia targeting illegal activity including, people smuggling and illegal fishing.

In January, the Australian government acquired the ADV Ocean Protector to provide further capability to safeguard the security of the county’s extensive maritime borders. It is a unique vessel, owned and operated by the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and utilising highly trained Australian Border Force (ABF) Maritime Enforcement Officers.

ADV Ocean Protector is the sister ship of the large-hulled Australian Border Force Cutter (ABFC) Ocean Shield, and forms part of an enhanced fleet of vessels tasked with maintaining the security of Australian waters.


The Maritime Border Command mission

According to Commander Maritime Border Command, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, the ABF’s mission to protect Australia’s maritime domain had been significantly boosted by the entry to service of the Ocean Predator. “This vessel significantly increases our reach and capability in the region,” Rear Admiral Laver said.

“Maritime Border Command’s responsibilities include countering illegal maritime arrivals; illegal foreign fishing; illegal activity in protected areas; piracy, robbery and violence at sea; prohibited imports and exports; marine pollution; biosecurity; and maritime terrorism."

Rear Admiral Peter Laver, RAN.Rear Admiral Peter Laver, RAN.Maritime Border Command leads the Detection, Interception and Transfer Task Group (DITTG), one of the three groups tasked with carrying out Operation Sovereign Borders

Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB). The operationally successful yet controversial operation is a military-led, border security operation supported and assisted by a wide range of federal government agencies.

OSB, along with the creation of the ABF itself, has been viewed as an example of the so-called ‘securitisation’ or ‘militarisation’ of Australia’s borders. While the ABF and its activities have received vehement criticism from certain quarters, it has largely – in the prevailing political parlance – achieved its mission of “stopping the boats”. Capabilities such as the Ocean Predator are themselves symbols in a government communication strategy aimed at deterring people smugglers and their customers.

Although the Command is Australia's lead civil maritime security authority, comprising a blend of DIBP staff and ABF members, it is led by a Rear Admiral (laver) appointed from the Department of Defence. This enables operational control of both ABF assets and assigned Defence assets.

ABF assets include Cape Class patrol vessels and contracted Dash-8 surveillance aircraft.  Defence-assigned assets include Royal Australian Air Force AP-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and Royal Australian Navy patrol boats. The Command also utilises commercial satellite imagery to conduct surveillance of remote sea areas.

Maritime Border Command's maritime surveillance and response activities are coordinated from the Australian Maritime Security Operations Centre in Canberra.  The Centre utilises systems such as the Australian Maritime Identification System to detect, risk assess and track vessels operating in or around Australia's maritime zones. The Command also maintains a regional presence in Broome, Cairns, Darwin and Thursday Island.


Fit for purpose… again

Ocean Protector previously served Australia as the Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) Ocean Protector from 2010 to 2014, conducting maritime border security patrols throughout Australia’s maritime domain from Christmas Island to the Southern Ocean.

The ship was originally built during 2006 and 2007 as an offshore support vessel for Norwegian company DOF ASA. In 2010, it was chartered by the Australian Government, as a replacement for the Customs vessel MV Oceanic Viking.

ACV Ocean Protector operated with Customs until her charter was terminated and she was replaced by Ocean Shield in 2014. She was renamed Skandi Protector and tasked to support subsea projects in the Asia Pacific. In October 2015, DOF ASA announced the sale of the ship to the Australian government.


Sister ships: Ocean Protector and Ocean Shield. Image courtesy Australian Government.Sister ships: Ocean Protector and Ocean Shield. Image courtesy Australian Government.


During its 2010-2014 Australian stint, the ship was chartered to Customs through DMAA Seaforce. Modifications for Customs service were made by Forgacs Engineering in Newcastle, NSW. The ship’s specifications included a length of 105.9 metres, beam of 21 metres and displacement tonnage of 8,500.

At that time, Ocean Predator’s range was 9,200 nautical miles at 16 knots with 10 percent reserve, and 23,000 nautical miles at 14 knots with 10 percent reserve. It carried two 8.5 metre Norsafe SOLAS-approved Customs and Border Protection Response Tenders (CRT) powered by twin 233hp diesel jet propulsion, with a range of approximately 60 nautical miles at 20 knots.

Weapons and Personal Defence Equipment (PDE) carried onboard included two deck mounted .50 calibre machine guns deck mounted, Glock pistols for Customs and Border Protection boarding party members, and other PDE equipment.

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