Samoa welcomes Nafanua II, border security boosted
The highly anticipated new $30 million guardian-class boat for patrolling Samoan waters, the Nafanua II, docked in Matautu wharf on Friday morning after a long journey home from Australia.
The ship's crew of 21 maritime Police Officers had sailed to Australia in the old Nafanua, which had been in service for just over three decades. After taking charge of the new vessel they were engaged in four months' intensive training to familiarise themselves with the new ship's capabilities.
The Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, said they would await the return of the Prime Minister, who is currently in Japan, before officially commissioning the vessel on October 15.
Otherwise, the Commissioner said he was grateful for a vessel to be back on island and with enhanced capabilities for securing Samoa's border and detecting activities such as illegal fishing and drug smuggling.
"It has to be commissioned first before [it starts its patrolling duties]," he said.
"I think the most important thing is that it is home safely and our asset is here now, a very important part of border security.
"And everyone who had just come back, they need to rest; they've been gone for a long time, they need to spend some time with their family, to bond again with families before they start work properly."
Fuiavailiili said the new vessel will complement Samoa's existing programme of aerial surveillance of its maritime zone with a plane stationed at Faleolo.
"Before this boat, the aircraft would fly around to check if there [was] any illegal fishing or strange looking vessels coming through that could be transporting transnational organised crime like human trafficking, drugs [etc.]," he said.
He said no detections were made while the Nafanua was away.
"But today is a very proud moment for the Samoan Police and for the whole of our country that we have a new vessel and it's all a gift from Australia," said Fuiavailiili.
The vessel was gifted to Samoa through the Australian Pacific Patrol Programme, now known as the Pacific Maritime Security Programme, in 1988.
Under the programme, Australia donated vessels to Pacific countries to the value of AUD$2-billion (T$3.6 billion) over a 30 year period.
"We're very very honoured and grateful for Australia for their contribution for the security of Samoa," he said.
Families, friends and colleagues of the Nafanua II were waiting patiently on shore for the arrival of their loved ones.