Combined NZ-Fiji Patrols End on High Note

The combined maritime patrols between New Zealand and Fiji involving HMNZS Hawea have ended on a high note, with about 550 vessels boarded and 110 alleged infringements detected over the past seven months.

Fiji authorities said the combined patrols contributed to their country’s maritime security and supported ongoing efforts to upskill Fijian Navy sailors.

“They have supported the protection, conservation and sustainable management of Fiji’s vast oceans and its fishery resources,” Captain Humphrey Tawake, Fiji’s Chief of Navy, said.

About 50 Fijian Navy sailors, 27 Customs Officers and 19 Fishery Officers also trained on the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Inshore Patrol Vessel Hawea.

“Learning is reciprocal and I am sure Hawea’s crew also learnt from their deployment to Fiji,” Captain Tawake said.

Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said that “apart from the strong results achieved, the other success stories from these patrols are the closer collaboration that had developed between New Zealand and Fiji government agencies and the stronger defence cooperation between our two countries.”

Major General Gall said operating with other militaries in a different environment offered an opportunity to test existing skills and learn new ones.

“Our sailors and our Fijian partners integrated so well that they were able to operate together effectively and learn from each other. We hope to again use this model for future combined maritime surveillance operations with Fiji,” he said.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) deployed Hawea to Fiji in April to help patrol the South Pacific country’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, which encompass more than 1.1 million square kilometres.

Personnel from Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries and Forest, Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority, and the Republic of Fiji Navy planned and led the patrols. New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries had compliance officers on Hawea providing fisheries support during the patrols.

On Thursday, NZDF Maritime Component Commander Commodore Jim Gilmour and Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto, the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, signed an Arrangement of Cooperation (Arrangement) that would facilitate future maritime patrols.

“Fiji is one of our closest neighbours in the South West Pacific and the Arrangement reflects the close ties between our nations and our shared security interests in the South West Pacific,” New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji Mark Ramsden said.

Commodore Gilmour said “the patrols contributed to a wider multinational approach to enhance maritime surveillance in the South West Pacific.”

“The NZDF regularly deploys our ships and aircraft to support countries in the region in monitoring and protecting their fishery resources. This just concluded operation demonstrates our continuing commitment.”

“I am proud of both the New Zealand and Fijian personnel involved in the operation; their shared commitment has made it a success,” Commodore Gilmour said.

Lieutenant Brock West, the Commanding Officer of Hawea, said around 60 per cent of the total alleged infringements detected were considered major breaches. These included fishing without a licence, dumping rubbish at sea, lack of work permits and safety infringements such as not holding master’s licences and life jackets.

Fiji authorities will investigate and follow-up on all the alleged infringements and impose appropriate sanctions under national jurisdiction. These investigations have already resulted in further education, fines and the confiscation of fishing gear, catch and equipment.

Hawea is scheduled to depart Suva for Auckland next week.