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Warning to fish poachers as armed patrols begin.

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Media release

Media Release

SENATOR THE HON. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON Minister for Justice and Customs Senator for Western Australia

19 November 2004

Warning to Fish Poachers as Armed Patrols Begin

The new Customs and Fisheries armed patrol vessel Oceanic Viking is ready for deployment to protect Australia’s sovereign interests in the Southern Ocean.

Inspecting the vessel during sea trials in Fremantle today (Friday November 19), Customs Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, and Fisheries and Conservation Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, said Oceanic Viking had been extensively fitted out in preparation for its role in protecting the valuable Patagonian Toothfish stocks and Australia’s borders.

Modifications to the vessel include the mounting of two .50 calibre machine guns on its upper decks and the installation of high-speed boarding craft.

“This armed vessel and its crew of Customs and Fisheries officers is now ready to conduct year-round patrols of Australian waters surrounding the remote Heard Island and McDonald Islands,” Senator Ellison said.

“The Oceanic Viking is a state-of the art vessel, fitted with specialised navigation and communications equipment and a fully-equipped medical facility,” he said.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s Polar Medicine Unit will provide medical equipment for the vessel. An AAD-contracted doctor with experience in Antarctic conditions will also be contracted for each patrol.

Senator Macdonald said the vessel could accommodate the ship’s crew, Customs and Fisheries boarding parties, and a civilian steaming party responsible for sailing apprehended vessels to Australia, at sea for extended periods.

“The capabilities of this vessel should send a strong message to those intent on illegally targeting the valuable Patagonian toothfish. The Australian Government now has the capability and the will to respond and apprehend such vessels at any time of the year,” Senator Macdonald said.

When not engaged in Southern Ocean operations the vessel may also be deployed in support of other Customs and Fisheries operations in other parts of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Prime Minister announced the two-year $89.2m armed patrol program in December 2003 and funding of $47.8m in 2004-05 and $41.4m in 2005-06 was confirmed in the Federal Budget earlier this year.

P&O Maritime Services was selected to provide the 105-metre Oceanic Viking after an exhaustive competitive tender process conducted by Customs.

The vessel will not have a permanent home port. Customs and Fisheries operations require the flexibility to deploy from various locations around the Australian coastline.

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