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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6945


Senator Chris Evans asked the Minister for Justice and Customs, upon notice, on 19 August 2002:

(1) In relation to the activity of the fleet of Bay Class Vessels (BCVs), for each of the 2000-01 and 2001-02 financial years: (a) how many seagoing days were achieved; (b) how many days maintenance were required to keep the fleet operational; and (c) what was the target for seagoing days for the fleet.

(2) Can information be provided of the costs associated with the following aspects of the BCVs: (a) initial value (ie. purchase price paid for each BCV); (b) average annual maintenance costs since introduction (include any automatic payments made to contractor for ongoing maintenance, as well as additional costs for any irregular or extra repairs that have been needed); (c) daily running costs (on a seagoing day); and (d) daily crew costs (ie. a breakdown of salary, on-costs, training etc.)

(3) Please describe what sea state the BCV fleet: (a) usually operates in; and (b) is capable of operating in, and what this description means in practical terms.

(4) Can the Minister confirm that the BCVs are not capable of operating in all parts of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and describe in general terms where these parts are (eg. Torres Strait, Heard and Macdonald Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory etc.).

(5) Other than the BCVs, does Customs loan any assets to Coastwatch, or have assets that are tasked by Coastwatch (eg. outboards or smaller vessels).

(6) In relation to Coastwatch, can the following information be provided for each of the 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2001-02 financial years: (a) the number of vessels intercepted; and (b) the number of vessels apprehended (including an indication of the illegal activity suspected).

(7) In each of the 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2001-02 financial years how many times was a suspected illegal vessel sighted by aerial surveillance in circumstances in which there were not the resources available to intercept the vessel.

(8) (a) How many flying hours in total did Coastwatch undertake (ie. task) in each of the 2000-01 and 2001-02 financial years; and (b) of these, in each financial year, how many were provided by Defence.

(9) Do any of the civil aircraft used by Coastwatch have: (a) radar equipment; and (b) any specialist patrolling or surveillance capability; if the answer to (b) is yes, describe briefly what this capability is, if the answer to either (a) or (b) is yes, how does the capability differ from that of P3-C Orions.

(10) Can a list be provided of: (a) the contractors, if any, that provided seagoing vessels to Coastwatch in each of the 2000-01 and 2001-02 financial years; (b) how many hours each was contracted to supply; and (c) how much Customs paid under the contract.

(11) In relation to Coastwatch's relationship with relevant state and territory agencies, what formal arrangements are in place to ensure the timely communication of information.

(12) What is Surveillance Australia's annual average for staff turnover for each of the financial years since 1995-96, to the end of the 2001-02 financial year.

(13) When was the last revised performance measurement system for contractors used by Coastwatch implemented.


Senator Ellison (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) In the 1997-98 Budget Customs received funding of $58.4 million over a ten-year period, to acquire a new marine capability that resulted in the Bay Class fleet of eight vessels. In relation to the activity of the Bay Class vessels, for the 2000-01 and 2001-02 financial years:

2000-01

2001-02

(a) Sea days

1038

1356

(c) Target Sea days

1,125

1200

(b) Maintenance days

250

276

(b) Annual survey

40

40

(2) Total Marine Unit Expenditure* including - Maintenance

$21,718,460$ 1,548,285

$28,553,072$ 2,543,731

* Customs does not account for costs on the basis of the requested breakdown.

(3) The Bay Class fleet usually operates in sea states up to and including sea state five. In sea state five the significant wave height is 2.4 to 3.6 metres (1 in 20 waves reach twice the stated amplitude). The vessels are designed to survive sea state 7 (significant wave height of 7.0 to 12.2 metres).

(4) The Bay Class fleet is capable of patrolling out to, and sometimes beyond, the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone around Australia's 37,000 kilometre coastline. This includes Ashmore Islands, Lord Howe Island and Torres Strait. The Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic territories are excluded.

(5) No Customs assets are loaned to Coastwatch. The Bay Class vessels are managed by the Customs National Marine Unit and are deployed in response to a diverse range of Federal, State and Local Government agency taskings. Strategic tasking of the fleet by Federal client agencies is co-ordinated through existing Coastwatch planning processes.

(6) Coastwatch coordinates civil maritime interceptions and apprehensions of vessels, apart from within the Operation RELEX Area of Operation, where Coastwatch and the Customs National Marine Unit operate in support of the Australian Defence Force for Suspect Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV) related activities. The Australian Defence Force/Customs approach to maritime surveillance and response activities is a collegiate one and thus the interception of a vessel is not always directly attributable to one agency. The following information therefore is a summary of total vessel interceptions and apprehensions by Customs and the ADF.

1999-2000

2000-2001

2001-2002

Vessels intercepted1

77

144

187

Vessels apprehended (Total)

149

120

123

- People Smuggling

76

53

232

Prohibited Imports (drugs)

1

1

2

- Illegal Fishing

72

66

98

1The figures for vessels intercepted are the totals of vessels apprehended in respect of legislative breaches, and those for which cautions have been issued or other administrative actions have taken place. It does not include routine boarding of vessels.

2 The 2001-02 figure for people smuggling includes Suspect Illegal Entrant Vessels intercepted under Operation RELEX arrangements and turned around or otherwise taken under ADF or Customs control.

(7) Coastwatch records sightings of vessels suspected of illegal activity and passes the information to the relevant client agency. That agency then determines whether a surface response is required and, if so, requests that Coastwatch coordinates that response. Coastwatch will then contact the asset provider, either the Australian Defence Force or the Customs National Marine Unit to determine whether an asset can be allocated to undertake the response. Figures on asset availability are therefore available only in respect of those vessels for which a surface response was requested.

Response requests by clients and availability of response resources

Jan-June 2000*

2000-2001

2001-2002

Total response requests

64

172

181

Response requested and no resources available from either Defence or Customs

11

25

37

* Figures not available for the period July to December 1999

Customs and Australian Defence Force assets were unavailable to respond to requests for the following reasons:

· Higher priority tasking

· The nearest potential response vessel too far away to intercept the target vessel within a reasonable time

· Insufficient fuel to undertake the task safely

· Crew unavailable to work a vessel that was laid up unmanned in reasonable proximity to the target vessel

(8)

Coastwatch Flying Hours

2000-2001

2001-2002

Total hours

18 305

20 808

Defence hours

250

101

(9) (a) A number of civil aircraft used by Coastwatch employ radar equipment. The five Dash 8 and three Reims F406 aircraft employ the SV-1022 surveillance radar. This Radar is superior to the older P3-C Orion APS-115 radar, but less capable than the new M-2022 radar as fitted to the new AP3-C.

(b) All surveillance aircraft employed by Coastwatch have been optimised to suit their individual mission tasks.

· The five Dash 8 aircraft are fitted with radar, Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) and Daylight TV (DTV) turret. The Bell 412 helicopter has a FLIR/DTV capability as well as an Infra Red spotlight and NiteSun spotlight. This gives the DASH 8 and the Bell 412 the ability to identify contacts during both day and night sorties. The FLIR/DTV are both superior to the older P3-C Infra Red Detection Set (IRDS), and similar in capability to the newer FLIR/DTV employed on some modified P3-C Orions.

· The Reims F406 and the Bell 412 employ Night Vision Goggles (NVG's). NVG's give these aircraft the ability to identify contacts at night, although the ranges will be less than those achieved using FLIR. The P3-C Orions are not equipped with NVGs

· All civil surveillance aircraft are fitted with a specialist communication suite of:

2 x High Frequency (HF) radio's

2 x Very High Frequency (VHF) radio's

2 x Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio's

1 x Satellite phone

While the P3-C Orions have similar radios the civil surveillance aircraft suite has been optimised to ensure communications with Coastwatch and selected client agencies.

(10)

Seagoing Vessel Contractors

Contractor

Date

Hours Supplied

Cost

Western Australia Fisheries

March 2000

24

$3,100

Barefoot Marine

October 2001

72

$13,420

(11) Coastwatch coordinates civil maritime surveillance and response activities on behalf of a range of Commonwealth agencies, each of whom has a Memorandum of Understanding with Coastwatch. At a national level, communication with state and territory agencies is conducted through the relevant Commonwealth client agency.

At a Regional level, in Western Australia (Broome and Fremantle), Queensland (Brisbane, Cairns and Thursday Island) and the Northern Territory (Darwin), formal communication arrangements are achieved through regular meetings, either monthly or two-monthly, of ROPAC (Regional Operational Planning and Advisory Committee), which discuss Coastwatch client related planning and operational issues. State and Territory agencies that participate in ROPAC meetings include the Queensland, NT and WA Police Forces; Queensland Boating and Fisheries; Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service; WA Fisheries, NT Conservation Commission, WA Conversation and Land Management; NT Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries; Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Premier and Cabinet; and Queensland Transport.

Guidelines on timely communications with relevant State and Territory agencies in the specific circumstance of an illegal landing of a Suspect Illegal Entrant Vessel on Australian Territory are also formalised in a multi-agency MOU and associated guidelines.

(12) Customs does not hold this information, nor can it require Surveillance Australia to provide the information under the terms of its contract.

(13) July 2000.