Maritime Surveillance Adviser – Tonga

Maritime Surveillance Adviser – Tonga


Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Program is a major defence co-operation program in the Pacific islands to support maritime surveillance and interdiction in Pacific Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Under the program, Australia provided three patrol boats to the Kingdom of Tonga:

  • Neiafu (October 1989)
  • Pangai (June 1990)
  • Savea (March 1991)

As well as provision of vessels, the program is supported by the deployment of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Maritime Surveillance Advisers, who are based in-country.

Government sources

Pacific Patrol Boat Life Extension Program Continues With Tonga’s Voea Neiafu, Department of Defence Media release, 24 February 2009

“Tonga’s Pacific Patrol Boat, VOEA NEIAFU, has arrived in Townsville to undergo a six-month life extension refit that will see the repair and refurbishment of key systems to facilitate a further 15 years of operation.

The Life Extension Program (LEP) is responsible for doubling the life expectancy of the PPBs. While they were originally designed to last for 15 years, each boat should now last 30. The LEP refit provides the PPBs with improved design features, including a modified hull, updated electronic systems, complete engine overhauls, renovated or new fittings, structural modifications to facilitate easier ships husbandry and advanced fresh water and air-conditioning systems. The LEP refit process takes approximately six months.

“It is expected that VOEA NEIAFU will be able to commence passage to return to Tonga in early September 2009. …Tonga received three PPBs – VOEA NEIAFU, VOEA SAVEA and VOEA PANGAI. The remaining two will receive similar refits at a later date.”

List of Australian Maritime Surveillance Advisers (MSA), Forum Fisheries Agency

“Maritime Surveillance Adviser – LCDR from the Royal Australian Navy posted to certain locations to provide operational support to the PPB Program. There are 12 MSA‘s posted throughout the region in direct support of the Pacific Class Patrol Boats…Lt. Commander Bill Triffit – Tonga”

Operation Kurukuru 2007, Tonga Now government website, 3 September 2007

“Joint Naval exercise 2007 Operation Kurukuru is dubbed as the largest maritime exercise hosted by a South Pacific nation. It involved not only those 9 Pacific Countries, but also included the United States, France, New Zealand and Australia. According to the Australian Maritime Surveillance Advisor in Tonga, Bill Triffit, the operation identified some of the vessels that needed further investigation….

“The 2007 Kurukuru Operation was hosted by Tonga and sponsored by the Australian Government with TOP$11 million. According to Triffit, the Australian Maritime Surveillance Advisor for the Tongan Navy, although the operation was carried out at sea, the headquarters was based in the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa where each participating country in the naval exercise had a representative in the coordinating team….

“Here in Tonga, the Tonga Navy is responsible for the surveillance of our Economic Zone using their patrol boats. These patrol boats have arrested foreign fishing vessels and even local ones for fishing illegally within our economic zone. Tonga at the moment has three patrol boats all donated by the Australian government. It comes through Australia’s Military Bilateral Assistance Program to Pacific nations.”

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