Monday, December 11, 2006

Australia Unveils 'Prison Hulk' Patrol Boat

It has been nicknamed the prison ship – Australian Custom's latest weapon in the fight against illegal fishing. Capable of holding up to 30 fishermen in secured cells, Triton will begin patrolling the country's northern waters from early next year. The vessel's sole mission will be to hunt down and seize illegal fishing boats and detain the offenders for prosecution. Built in the UK in 2000, Triton was originally intended for the Royal British Navy. The Federal Government has leased the vessel for 12 months at a cost of $17 million.At 98m long, Triton is the world's largest powered trimaran and can hit a top speed of 20 knots (37km/h). Customs Minister Chris Ellison said Triton was selected for its range, speed and capability of operating independently or as a command ship. Its ability to hold a large number of detainees was also an attractive feature. "The Triton will have the capacity to detain illegal foreign fishers for only as long as is needed to transfer them to shore for processing and prosecution, if warranted," Mr Ellison said.Based in Darwin, Triton will be supported by a civilian maritime crew of 14 and also carry up to 28 armed Customs officers capable of boarding and securing vessels operating illegally in the Australian Fishing Zone. Senator Ellison said Triton also would be armed with two .50 calibre machine guns, in line with new laws which allows Customs to engage in fire. "The Howard Government allocated $17 million in the last Budget to provide for this year-long patrol deployment, as part of a $389 million funding increase over four years to support our anti-illegal fishing strategy," Mr Ellison said.

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