Fiji Navy’s new Patrol Boat RFNS Puamau runs aground on Fulaga Island reef

RFNS Puamau was gifted from the Australian government to Fiji and commissioned last month. 3 May 2024 (Photo: Facebook / Republic of Fiji Navy)

Fiji’s newly commissioned Guardian-class patrol boat, RFNS Puamau, ran aground on a reef at Fulaga Island in the Lau group on Sunday. 

RFNS Puamau was provided by Australia under the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project to enhance maritime security across the Pacific. This vessel is the second of its kind delivered to Fiji, following its sister ship, RFNS Savenaca. 

The Republic of Fiji Navy confirmed the grounding incident, which occurred during a two-week patrol mission. 

“Our utmost priority is the safety and welfare of all crew onboard. 

“A crisis management team has been assembled to oversee the situation, with emergency support crews and secondary support arrangements underway to safely remove the vessel. 

“As our focus remains steadfast on ensuring the safety of life, additional information will be disseminated from HQ Navy as it becomes available.” 

The Navy expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support extended to ensure the safe return of the patrol boat crew. 

“We are profoundly grateful for the invaluable assistance offered by our partners and stakeholders during this trying period. 

“Be assured, our dedicated teams are tirelessly engaged in addressing the situation at hand. A second patrol boat with Navy divers has arrived on scene to assist with damage control assessments and temporary repairs before the arrival of specialist salvage operators. An assessment flight is also scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) to enhance our situational awareness. 

“Furthermore, key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Home Affairs & Immigration and the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF), are being kept updated. In our recovery efforts, we are prioritising options that not only ensure the safe retrieval of the vessel but also focus on minimizing environmental impact,” the Fiji Navy added. 

The arrival of RFNS Puamau was intended to strengthen Fiji’s naval capabilities and enhance cooperation with Australia and other Pacific Island nations as part of Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Programme. 

The Guardian-class vessels offer improved performance over earlier models, supporting a wide range of maritime operations. RFNS Puamau is the first of four Guardian-class boats set to be delivered in 2024. Overall, 22 vessels are planned for this initiative, which aims to boost maritime security and operational capacity throughout the Pacific region.